Youth Resource

Applying To College

It is never too early to prepare to apply for college.

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Regardless of when you begin, a good first step is to reach out to a high school counselor or a McKinney-Vento liaison to ask about your high school’s graduation requirements and steps you can take to prepare to apply for college. This resource provides an overview of items to consider when applying to college.

Things to consider when deciding which school(s) to apply to:

Reach out to your homeless liaison!

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, every local educational agency is required to designate a liaison for homeless children and youth. The local educational agency liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically.

Click HERE to find the contact information of your local homeless education liaison.

Note: This contact information may change frequently due to staff turnover. If you have problems finding the right school district homeless liaison, please contact your state homeless education coordinator.

Tips and Tricks:

Junior and Senior Year Checklist: Applying to College

  • If possible, in the fall of 11th grade, take the PSAT/NMSQT so that you will qualify for scholarships and programs associated with the National Merit Scholarship Program. If possible in the spring of 11th grade, take your first SAT/ACT.
    • Register and take the SAT/ACT. Check with the colleges you are interested in to determine which test you will need to take.
      • SAT fee waiver information can be found here.
      • ACT fee waiver information can be found here.
  • There are fee waiver options available that will allow you to take these exams for free. Reach out to your counselor or liaison to talk about how to access a fee waiver. 
  • Ask your counselor or liaison about any resources that would allow you to visit a few of the colleges that interest you. If you are unable to visit in person, you can look at each college’s website, social media accounts, youtube channel, etc. to get a feel for the campus environment and what is offered at each college. While you do this:
    • Make a list of colleges that most interest you.
    • Add the application deadline for each of these colleges.
    • If you have a “first choice” college, try to apply by the college’s early application deadline to demonstrate your interest to the admissions office. 
    • Look at the application requirements (Essay, Letters of Recommendation, Official Transcript, SAT/ACT, etc.)  for each college and consider making checklists of the requirements for each college to which you plan to apply. 
  • At the beginning of senior year, create an FSA ID by following this link. This will allow you to login and apply for FAFSA as well as view your FAFSA documents. You will want to make sure that you use an email address that you can access, and securely save your login information.
    • Fill out the FAFSA as early as possible. The application opens on October 1st of each year. For more information on applying for FAFSA, visit this link. 
    • If you do not have a parent or guardian to assist you with filling out the FAFSA, consider letting your guidance counselor know. Often they are willing and able to sit with you and help you fill out the application. You can also ask your McKinney-Vento liaison for assistance. Liaisons are required to advise and prepare students experiencing homelessness for college including providing determination letters so that unaccompanied homeless youth can receive independent status for financial aid (learn more about financial aid here).
  • Request recommendation letters as early as possible. If possible, you will want to give your recommenders a month to have the letter ready to send. 
  • When communicating with the Financial Aid or Admissions office, use an email address that you know you will have access to and check it often. If you are able to create an email address that consists of your first and last name at the email server (for example, it will look professional and keep all of your important documents in one place. 
  • Apply for scholarships. StudentAid.Gov offers a free search engine found here. 

For additional resources and to learn about navigating topics such as FAFSA, student loans, accessing basic needs resources, buying a car, and much more, visit our Youth Resources Page.