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Keep track of due dates
College deadlines can be unforgiving, so you'll want to devote a calendar just for essay filing and other application dates. Include deadlines for financial aid documents and, if applicable, for early-action or early-decision applications.
Check college prices
College sticker prices are meaningless for two-thirds of college students because they receive grants and scholarships. To obtain a personalized price for what a school will cost your family, use each school's net price calculator, which is located on each institution's website.
Have a money talk
After using net price calculators for schools, you'll have a good idea how much a school will cost. You'll then need to talk to your parents about what they can realistically afford and how much you may have to borrow.
Share the love
If a college relies on holistic admission reviews, you'll want the school to know how much you love it. An excellent way to do this is to contact a school's admission representative for your region by email and let him or her know of your interest in the institution.
Practice for the ACT or SAT
This will be the last chance to boost your standardized test scores. The remaining dates for the SAT this year are Oct. 5, Nov. 2 and Dec. 7. The final 2013 dates for the ACT are Sept. 8, Oct. 27 and Dec. 8.
It's better to visit colleges before applying because it will save you the trouble of turning in an application if a school is a turnoff. If you can't visit, look for a virtual tour on a school's website and have the college arrange for you to talk to current students. Also spend time researching on a school's website.
Get started on your application
The Common Application for the 2013-2014 admission season, which many selective, private colleges and universities use, will be available beginning Aug. 1. You'll feel relieved if you can finish the application before your senior year starts.
If you are a recruited athlete...
If you hope to compete in NCAA Division I or Division II athletics, you must complete the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse form. Athletes will also have to submit their transcripts and test scores to the NCAA.
Narrow your college list
This is the perfect time to continue researching schools. Spend time on a school's academic and admission office Web pages. Try to whittle your potential schools down to a dozen or so.