JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

College-Bound Checklist

The following checklist is designed for high school students. Consider printing it out for your students or providing the link to this page and suggest they keep it nearby, crossing off the steps as they complete them. Doing this will help them stay on track and monitor their progress.

High School Freshman

High School Sophomore

High School Junior

  • Talk with your parents about your college savings program. Make sure your college savings plan is keeping up with the increase in college tuition.
  • Research different career options and determine within which geographic areas you’d like to focus when looking at colleges.
  • Attend college fairs to gather information.
  • Begin researching colleges through the College & Scholarship Search of the ISAC Student Portal and collecting admission information.
  • Obtain letters of recommendation or personal references from teachers or counselors.
  • Take the ACT and/or the SAT assessment test(s).
  • Consider getting a summer job or internship and save the money earned for college.

High School Senior

  • Talk with your parents and review your college savings program. Make sure you’re keeping up with the increase in college tuition and saving as much as you possibly can.
  • Attend a financial aid workshop.
  • Tour campuses and investigate admissions and costs. Use Cappex to find your perfect college.
  • Research available scholarships, grantswork-study programs and loans. Obtain information and send in applications.
  • After January 1, and when your and your parents’ taxes are prepared, file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Choose three to five potential colleges you’d like to attend and send applications to them.
  • Meet with the financial aid office at each college to research financial aid options.
  • Review your financial aid options, based on award letters received,  for grants, scholarships, work-study programs and loans. Determine your college budget and decide what financial aid to accept. 
  • If applicable, retrieve your college money from  529 college savings programs.
  • Develop a long-range budget to pay for college.
  • Consider getting a summer job or internship and save the money earned for college.