Planning for College; What Steps to Take and When


Now that your student has begun high school, it’s time to start thinking about life after graduation!

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission believes college is a real and reachable goal for every student in Tennessee. Keep in mind, college isn’t just a four year university. In reality, college is any kind of training, credential, or degree that someone earns after graduating from high school. It can mean attending a four year university, a community college or one of the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, TCATs.

The college-going process has many steps but students and families should never feel alone in this process. In Tennessee, there are amazing people and programs at the high school and college level that can help families navigate college applications, financial aid, and enrollment. This includes the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation’s Outreach Specialists, state programs such as GEAR UP TN and Advise TN, and local nonprofit and college access partners.

State financial aid opportunities are available for students of all ages, some of which allow students to attend college tuition free. This includes the Tennessee Promise scholarship for high school seniors and the new Tennessee Reconnect scholarship for adult learners and students who qualify as Independent students on the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Future college students should visit to complete the forms needed in order to access state and federal financial aid programs.   

Along with THEC, the Tennessee Assistance Corporation, TSAC, oversees a detailed search engine that includes information about financial aid programs in Tennessee and the criteria for earning and maintaining different scholarships. 

Now that a decision has been made to attend college, the next question will likely be where? THEC has put together a college search to help students explore what schools might best fit their interests and preferences, from academic majors to deciding between a small or large campus. You can also find information in this search about which types of Tennessee State Aid can be used at each school.