Way back in kindergarten, the end goal for students was preparing to get into college or going to a trade school.

While for the Class of 2018, the senior year of high school and creating lasting memories has just started, savoring all the last of high school also means beginning to prepare for college. And the first step in that process is visiting colleges and then applying to a college.

"College visits are an important part of the college process," said Rebecca Coneglio, associate dean of undergraduate admissions at Walsh University. "It is never too early to start visiting colleges. However, it is best to looking for visitation days or attending open house during the junior year (important tip for Class of 2019). Fall visitation days are helpful to students as they are completing the application process. This is a great time to meet with admissions, faculty, current students, etc.  …really a chance to get a closer look at the college.

"Typically, applications are available mid-August for students entering their senior year; however deadlines vary significantly depending on the college. Most of the application process can be done online. Every university has different requirements and is best to review their website for requirements. Most colleges have these standard requirements – application, high school transcripts and ACT or SAT test scores."

Applying at schools and visiting the campus are intertwined.

"Yes, it is always a good idea to apply early and get accepted," said Coneglio, "but feel free throughout any part of the college search process to contact the university to meet with professors or other university personnel that maybe helpful in answering questions."

Coneglio said there are some advantages to students applying early to a school.

"Applying and getting accepted early helps in many ways," Coneglio said. "Most importantly, ensuring you don’t miss scholarship opportunities that may have a deadline, as well as completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) process as early as possible."

In the past, parents could not complete a FAFSA form until Jan. 1. Recently, that form can now be completed Oct. 1. This will determine for families how much student aid is available for their child.

"Whether applying to a small private university or a large public, it is important to complete FAFSA which is now available Oct. 1 of the senior year," said Coneglio. "The process can seem overwhelming but the universities have resources to help assist families in the process."

Once accepted, some schools will encourage students to make a room deposit. Oftentimes, this determines the order for incoming students to choose the dorm they will wish to live in on campus.

"May 1 of the student’s senior year is considered National Decision Day," said the veteran admissions counselor. "If students have not already made a decision this is the recommend date. Also, schools will refund deposits before this date if the student decides on another university."

Congelio added that since each university/college is very different in their process and deadlines, so it is always best to reach out to the admissions representative for guidance throughout the process.