From High School Senior to College Freshman: Navigating the Application Process

October 12, 2015 (updated November 24, 2019)

Your child's senior year of high school may have just begun, but for this year's graduating class, it's already time to start thinking about College Applications, Financial Aid, Shot Records and Freshman Orientation. Understanding that you still need to enjoy and relish in your child's remaining days as a high school student, use this list as a guideline to ensure you're both prepared come next fall.

Related: Getting ready for high school graduation: From point A to B

(The following most closely pertains to Montana State University-Billings’ application guidelines, for dates pertaining to other colleges of choice, check out CollegeSimply, an incredible resource for application deadlines.)

Did you know you can visit campuses if you are undecided in where to apply? Most colleges offer tours of campus and there's a contact number you can use to schedule. MSUB's contact for a campus tour is 406.657.2888. Also, watch for Fall Preview Days where you can experience campus life and interact with current students.

During the application process, you want to make sure all documents that are required are submitted in a timely manner. MSUB requires an official High School Transcript, as well as Health Records of immunizations (month/day/year). ACT scores are not always required at the time of application; however, it is a tool used to determine admission and course placement, so submitting an ACT score at the time of application is strongly encouraged. The City College of MSUB does not require an ACT score. It’s also important to begin asking for letters of recommendation sooner rather than later.

Financial Aid, mainly FAFSA, is available beginning January 1st and you do not have to wait for your taxes to be completed in order to file. Keep in mind, the priority deadline is March 1st, so start early at fafsa.ed.gov. In completing this application process, your child could be eligible for loans, grants or work study programs.

Different institutions may post different deadlines; however, MSUB does not have application deadlines, although priority for scholarships is given to students applying prior to February 1st. Most scholarships at MSUB are awarded beginning in December. It's best to apply to MSUB by late 2015, and complete the FAFSA application around the beginning of 2016 if you're looking for scholarships, loans or grants. Be sure to check early what the application deadlines are for your teen's school(s) of choice.

After you apply, unless it's a major institution, you should receive notice within a week of your application. MSUB Admissions does warn applicants that November brings in a lot of college applications and that may cause a delay in receiving notice.

Must students select their major at the time of application? Not necessarily, so do not let that potential question mark slow up your application. If your child is leaning towards a specific major, they are welcome to share that on their application, as it helps in assigning an adviser and creating a plan of study for them starting in the fall. Should they change their mind after applying, simply have them notify their adviser to update their plan of study.

Finally, as a parent or guardian, it is our responsibility to be a source of empowerment as they are entering uncharted territory, a world of decision making. By sharing deadlines and communicating about the entire process, it alleviates stress from both of you, as you're working together towards a common goal. Provide encouragement and be at the ready to answer any questions as the application process occurs, and if you’re both unsure about next steps, utilize your school’s guidance counselors. Ensure they are checking their emails regularly and if they use their phone number as primary contact, make sure they listen to voicemails from unknown numbers. Much like their first steps as babies, applying for college is a milestone, something parents and guardians should relish in with their future college freshman. Good luck!

featured image by Dineshraj Goomany via Flickr