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College Planning

The Different Types of Colleges

  • Four-Year Universities: Four-year colleges/universities offers a bachelor’s degree and is primarily an undergraduate institution, although some may also offer graduate programs.
  • Liberal Arts Colleges: A liberal arts education is a curriculum that embodies a variety of disciplines aimed at imparting general knowledge.
  • Two-Year Colleges: Two-year college, often referred to as junior or community college, offers an associate’s degree. It is a good option for students hoping to reduce the overall cost of a four-year college education, or for those who need more academic experience before enrolling in a four-year college.
  • Trade and Vocational Colleges: Trade and vocational colleges traditionally teach job-specific skills and provide training in a specialized career field.
  • Online Colleges: Online colleges allow students to earn a college degree by enrolling in courses online rather than living or commuting to a college campus. It is also known as distance learning.

*This information was taken from CFES Brilliant Pathways. For more information please visit their website at 

College Entrance Exams - SAT & ACT

  • The SAT and ACT are nationally recognized college admissions tests. Many four-year colleges and universities require them as part of a student's admissions package. These institutions vary in the emphasis placed on standardized test scores in comparison to other college admission factors.
  • The SAT covers sections in Evidenced-based Reading & Writing and Mathematics, as well as an optional essay section. The PSAT is the official practice test for the SAT.
  • The ACT measures skills in English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. It also has an optional essay section. The PreACT is an official practice test for the ACT
  • Students may take the practice test (PSAT and PreACT) during their 10th and 11th grade years of high school. It is encouraged for students to complete coursework in both Algebra and Geometry prior to taking the official practice tests. 
  • Students typically take the SAT & ACT during the spring of their junior year of high school and re-test in the fall of their senior year of high school. 

How to register for the SAT and ACT

  • Fee waivers are available for qualifying students (please see your High School Counselor). Otherwise a credit card will be necessary to complete the payment portion of the registration. 
  • Do you have an IEP or 504? You will need to apply for testing accommodations through both CollegeBoard (SAT) and ACT. Please see your High School Counselor for more information. 

How to apply for college

  • Start by checking admissions requirements for each college or university you want to apply to. Most colleges/universities post their application and admission criteria on their admissions websites. Check requirements for letters of recommendations, essay, interview/resume, SAT/ACT, SAT Subject Tests, high school GPA/Rank, application deadline, application fee, etc.
  • Applications:
    • apply to a variety of private and state colleges and universities - use the Common Application at
    • apply to SUNY campuses - use the SUNY application at
    • apply to Community Colleges - use the applications found on the colleges' websites (typically the applications found on the Community College's websites are cheaper than the SUNY application..sometimes it is even free to apply using their site) 
    • other applications may be found on college/universities' admissions websites

NCAA Clearinghouse - for college-bound student-athlete

Financial Aid - all of the following information was taken from the NYS Higher Education Services Corporation Center website

STEP ONE - complete the FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA - the Free Application for Federal Student Aid -  is the first step to financial aid. The information you provide determines whether you are eligible for federal financial aid, and the amount you are qualified to receive. Remember, the FAFSA is free — do not pay for it!

Complete the 2021-22 FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1, 2021  -- the date it becomes available. Learn the Top 10 Reasons to Complete the FAFSA Early.

Apply for a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) online at to complete and electronically sign your FAFSA and other federal student aid documents. Applying before you start the FAFSA makes the process a lot easier. Both the student and one parent/guardian will need a FSA ID.

Complete the FASFA online at Step-by-step assistance is available as you complete the form. For the 2021-2022 academic year, you will use 2020 tax information. 

You will be able to review your Student Aid Report (SAR) once your FAFSA is processed. The SAR will show how much federal aid you are entitled to receive and how much your family can expect to pay. They will also provide you with your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).


Check out this list of documents and information you will need to complete the FAFSA.

STEP TWO - complete the New York State TAP 

If you are a New York State resident attending college in New York State, apply for TAP.

Learn about the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)

Click on the "Start your state application" link on the online FAFSA confirmation page to complete your TAP application after submitting the FAFSA.

Or, if you already filed the FAFSA apply for TAP now.

Apply for New York State awards and scholarships for which you are eligible.

STEP THREE - aid from the colleges/universities

The colleges you listed on the FAFSA will receive a copy of your information that they use to determine institutional aid. Once accepted, you will receive an award letter from the college detailing the aid you can receive at that college.

Check with your college to see if there are additional applications for institutional aid, such as the CollegeBoard's CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE application.

STEP FOUR  - outside scholarships

Scholarships and awards are offered by other sources such as community groups, clubs and organizations.

Ask your high school counselor about available scholarships and awards.

Search FREE scholarship websites. Do not pay for them.

STEP FIVE - compare award letters 

Each college to which you are accepted will send a college award letter detailing the financial aid package you are eligible to receive.

Review and compare financial aid award letters carefully before making a decision. Use HESC's Award Letter Comparison Tool.

Once you choose the college you will attend, follow instructions on how to accept or decline each part of the offer of aid, and supply any other documents as requested.

Call the college financial aid office and make sure all documents are received, and your financial aid is set before classes start.

STEP SIX - student loans

If necessary, apply for student loans.  Be sure you have received all federal, state and institutional grants and scholarships for which you qualify before you take any student loans. Loans must be repaid with interest.

Start with federal loans. Federal loans have low, fixed-rates for students and parents. Follow the instructions in your award letter to receive federal loans. For more information, visit

Private loans are an option if you still have a funding gap after applying for and receiving all aid as well as federal student loans. Learn more