College Plan Timeline:


You’ll send in your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid) your senior year but it’s a great idea to familiarize yourself with the form now to make it easier to fill out next year.

Understand your college costs by researching tuition and expenses at different types of schools.

Unless you’re the child of an oil tycoon or plan on winning the lottery, you’ve probably experienced at least a little anxiety concerning college costs. But “I’m only a junior,” you say, “I don’t need to worry about financial aid yet!”

Not exactly.

It’s important to plan early when it comes to college tuition and expenses. The first step is to explore the basics. In the broadest sense, there are three tuition tiers among American colleges and universities:

  1. Community Colleges (including junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools, and technical colleges): the least expensive college option. Example: Houston Community College
  2. Public Universities: the mid-range college option. Example: Ohio State University
  3. Private Colleges and Universities: the most expensive college option. Example: University of Southern California

Within these categories there is wide variation but in general most schools fit into one of the three categories and usually adhere to these tuition characteristics.

Unfortunately you can’t live on tuition alone. When looking at college costs it’s important to remember that there are a number of additional expenses that accompany tuition. While you’d have some of these expenses anyway (you’ll have to eat whether you go to college or not), some are college dependent.

Other college expenses include:

  • Housing
  • Textbooks and school supplies
  • Travel
  • Parking and car expenses
  • Lab and materials fees
  • Food, drink, and entertainment

Great, we know that college can cost a lot. Now what?

It’s time to talk scholarships and financial aid. Another trip to your neighborhood guidance counselor might be in order.

You’ll complete most of your scholarship and financial aid applications during your senior year but it’s important to find out if there are any scholarships that specifically target juniors like you. Remember, you’re going to be swamped with college applications your senior year so anything you can apply for now will ease your future burden.

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Related Tools and Checklists

High School Junior Timeline and Checklist
High School Senior Timeline and Checklist

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

How to Apply for Financial Aid
Financial Aid Timeline: Junior Year
Paying for College: The Basics
See All College Financial Aid: The Basics of Student Aid and FAFSA Articles


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