First Entertainment Credit Union
Get Smart

College Planning : Start Smart

College is a major part of your financial life. It affects you and your family, and smart decisions here can pay big dividends to the quality of life for those your care about. It's important to know that there are different steps to take for different stages of your student's experience. For example, Juniors in high school have different priorities than high school Seniors. First Entertainment wants to always be a valuable resource to you and your financial life, so we try to keep you up-to-date with resources that you can use to be successful.


  1. It's not too early to start planning for college at the BEGINNING of your student's Junior year in high school.
  2. It's a good idea to anticipate that your student may take the ACT or SAT more than once. And it's always a good idea to take it at least once during the Junior year.
  3. Students can begin planning the writing of their essays in the Summer just before their Senior year. This can aid in alleviating that responsibility once the school year begins.
  4. FULLY UNDERSTAND the concepts of Early Application, Early Action, Single-Choice, Regular Decision and Binding Agreements. Colleges may use different terms for these, so please check with your specific College for their terms and deadline dates.
  5. April of Senior year is a very busy month. This is the most common time for families to make the final College decision. By this time, the family has completed the FAFSA, applied to all of the Colleges of interest and the Colleges are ready to provide financial information for the students they have accepted.

You'll find information here on a lot of things that you will want to consider when taking this very important step for your family. We have links here to lots of resources, like the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the very valuable Common Application – which is making a lot of parents' lives easier! Please read on and enjoy your higher education journey. And, as always, talk to us if you think we can help.

Valuable College Planning Links


How to complete the FAFSA
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the place for every family to start their understanding of the true cost of the college of their choice.

Also, here is a valuable infographic on Navigating the Financial Aid Process. Click on it and go to a larger graphic that gives a concise explanation of what to expect.

The Financial Aid Process

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Calculator

The FAFSA collects demographic and financial information from you and your parents to determine an Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This figure determines your eligibility for:

The EFC is determined according to formulas set yearly by U.S. Congress. There are numerous financial aid resources to help in your search. We encourage you to check with your high school counselor.

The Common Application
The Common Application is used by more than 450 colleges and universities – fill it out once and submit it to the colleges of your choice (if they accept it). Spend less time filling out forms and more time working on your essays!

The Common Application was developed in 1975 as a way to cut down on the number of separate applications and essays a student applying to numerous colleges and universities would have to complete.

Valuable College Planning Resources

The College Planning Checklist

Resources for Students and their Families

College Prep Checklist

Valuable College Planning Tips (courtesy of the ACT)

Apply to "Choice" Colleges
Before you start applying to schools, find out the application deadline and fees for each school you are considering.

The application process at each school is unique. You'll find different requirements, prerequisites, and levels of selectivity. Some things remain consistent though, and we have advice to help you through the application process.

Start early.
It takes time to get ACT scores tabulated and sent, and it takes time for school counselors and others providing references to gather information.

Follow the instructions and proofread.
The application form is often an admission committee's first contact with a prospective student. Make a good impression with a neat application free of spelling and grammatical errors.

Work with your high school to send transcripts & test scores.
Go to your school guidance office for help getting all necessary transcripts, records, test scores, and applications sent to prospective schools. If you decide to apply to schools that have not already received your ACT scores, you can ask ACT to send your scores to that college.

Make the most of personal references.

  • Ask people who know you and can support the recommendation well.
  • Prepare a neat and legible reference form.
  • Give your references plenty of time—a school counselor isn't likely to write glowing recommendations for last-minute requests! Allow at least two weeks before application deadlines.

Write an outstanding essay.
Most college applications require an essay, so spend time crafting a good one. A great essay probably won't get you into college if you don't meet the other academic requirements. But if a student is a "possible admit"— one of the "maybes" the college may admit—it can move him or her higher up on the list.

Be ready to interview, audition, or submit a portfolio.
Some colleges also require a personal interview or examples of work in special areas such as art or music.

Keep a copy of all your application materials.

Rates Locations Calculators
Contact Us Live Help



First Entertainment Credit Union (and its employees and directors) 1) does not endorse or guarantee third-party links; 2) does not provide the products and services offered on third-party sites; and 3) does not bind those sites and/or products and services to the First Entertainment Credit Union web site Privacy Policy. Read more on our Link Disclaimer Policy page.

Would you like to go to the site you've chosen?