New year, new you, and new opportunities! This is the month to start off on the right foot to make sure you get into the college of your dreams. Here’s what to do.

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1) Prepare the FAFSA

The Free Application For Student Aid is a required form for every student applying for need-based federal financial that becomes available January 1st. It’s very important to fill out the FAFSA as soon possible, not only does it determine your eligibility for federal aid but also certain types of state financial aid.

Keep in mind while filling out your FAFSA that you’ll be asked for important reference documents such as your parent’s tax return. Keeping these handy will help you zip through application.

Lastly, don’t forget that the FAFSA is after all, free. If you’re being charged to fill out the form it is not legitimate. The only way to correctly access the form is through the FAFSA website at

Read: 7 Ways to be Prepared for FAFSA

2) Focus on Classes

This goes hand in hand with avoiding senioritis. A great motivator here, and one that seniors sometimes forget, is that college acceptance offers are always conditional; they’re based on how you conclude your senior year.

That being said, your second and last semester can always be an opportunity.

Even if you didn’t do too well fall semester, January means a chance for a fresh start. Colleges love to see improvement, and doing so can only improve your chances of landing on a deferral/wait-list.

3) Look for Scholarships

In general, but especially if you’re winding down on college applications - continuing with applying for scholarships is a great idea.

Many scholarship applications aren’t nearly as tedious as you may think, and being awarded a scholarship can make all the difference in affording the school of your dreams.

A great “new years resolution” can look like making it a habit to check for scholarships every Sunday!  

Read: How to Find and Apply to Scholarships

4) Check your Deadlines

While most college deadlines are January 1st, every school has different applications deadlines. Some schools have deadlines later in January, February and even March.

Even if those deadlines seem far out it’s a great idea to plan to have your applications in a week before they are due.

Take this time to review the applications process and check for additional documentation and fees required.

Check for alternative applications in things you may be interested in like honors programs and ROTC.

And if you’re planning to start at a community college that likely has rolling admissions (meaning you can apply pretty much right up until classes start)-- you should make sure to treat it as if it had a deadline like any other college.

Why? Not only can some classes fill up, but some programs at community colleges DO have deadlines. Honors programs especially!

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Authored by Gilmar Rosas

Gilmar works with American Honors and covers tips on how students can excel both inside and outside the classroom.