By Tim Gorrell, Executive Director, Ohio Tuition Trust Authority

July 14, 2020

For students getting ready to start their senior year, summer is an ideal time to prepare for college before their final year of high school. There are many steps your student can take this summer to make themselves more appealing for college admissions.

Studying and taking the SAT and ACT

Sorry, Class of 2021, but you may still need to study this summer for those SAT or ACT exams. First, check with the higher education institutions to see if SAT or ACT scores are required. A recent New York Times article stated that over 50% of four-year universities might make the test optional on their applications.

If the school still needs the scores, College Board — the organization that offers the SAT and Advanced Placement exams — and ACT Inc. are holding registration for fall exams. College Board has teamed up with Khan Academy to provide free online resources for students to review along with practice exams. To help students to study for the exam, ACT is offering digital resources like ACT Academy and ACT practice tests at no cost.

Where to earn their higher education

Summer is also a good time for your student to figure out what type of higher education institution to attend. If it’s an apprenticeship, 529s can now be used to pay for certain qualified costs for programs accredited by the U.S. Department of Labor. Community colleges continue to be a great cost-effective option to earn a higher education. If it’s a four-year university, check out the school’s website to see whether it is holding virtual school tours or virtual chat rooms with current students and admissions staff.

If your child plans to play collegiate sports, make sure they register with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Prepare to fill in the Common Application

Nearly 900 higher education institutions use a single application for admissions, called the Common App. To get started, set up an account this summer to see what paperwork is needed for the form. Your child will also need to select which schools to send the application. You can fill out the Common App beginning Aug. 1, but your child can prepare their essays in advance.

If the school doesn’t use the Common App, visit its website to create an application timeline. The deadlines can sneak up once your student’s senior year begins.

Apply for scholarships

It takes time to research all the available scholarships to augment your 529 college savings. To start, visit Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, which offers guidance on scholarships, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool. There are many free online scholarship search sites like Sallie Mae, FastWeb, and Remember, you should never pay to apply for a scholarship.

Prepare For FAFSA

Use the longer summer days to collect the information for the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which you can fill out starting Oct. 1. FAFSA is the application used to apply for need-based federal financial aid to attend four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, vocational schools, and graduate schools. Most colleges will use FAFSA to determine the amount of financial aid to provide to students.  Students and parents can each create their own FSA ID now and be ready to use it on the FAFSA application when it opens.

While you are avoiding the summer heat, take the time to prepare for your child’s higher education. It can make your student’s senior year less stressful for them and for you.


About the Author

Tim Gorrell is the executive director of Ohio Tuition Trust Authority. For more than 30 years, Ohio Tuition Trust Authority has sponsored and administered Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage. Visit for more information.