By this time in your senior year of high school, you’re probably well into your college search. You’ve gathered information about many different schools, and the finish line has never seemed so close. Now is not the time to lose steam, so we’ve created a critical to-do list to help you navigate your college search during this final year.
Deadlines are deadlines, so pay close attention to them. As soon as the fall semester rolls in, prepare your applications carefully and give yourself plenty of time.
If you need to write an essay, get started on a draft early enough so teachers, mentors, and family can proofread it. If you need help with your applications, contact your counselor before the deadline. If you need recommendations, ask your teachers early. Many of them will be flooded with last-minute requests, so by approaching them earlier, you ensure your letter will be ready on time, and they will be more focused on it.
A rule of thumb for recommendations: you shouldn’t necessarily approach a teacher just based on your grades in that class. Reflect on the relationships you have with current and past teachers. Are you particularly close to one of them? Did someone see you overcome some struggles and succeed despite obstacles? Pick a teacher who knows you and has a story to tell.
There are many more deadlines to keep in mind, such as submitting your FAFSA, and scholarship applications. Does the scholarships your applying for require test scores? And make sure you meet with your counselor to double-check you’re on target for graduation. It’s easy to lose track, so monitor everything in a planner or calendar.
After visiting some schools during your junior year, you should now be focusing on your “short list” of schools in your senior year. You have likely narrowed down your interest area of study and the pros and cons of schools you’re considering.
You may also want to go back for a second visit – it’s fine to visit a school multiple times before making a final decision. Feeling confident and secure in your final decision is best before committing to a school.
Review each college’s admission website to see when tours are offered. Be prepared to discuss what you’re looking for in a college environment and a possible academic major. Consider these questions: Does each college offer your intended major (bearing in mind many students change their major) and align with your strengths, interests, and career goals? Does each college on your list provide the type of campus community you’re looking for as a student?
Once you start receiving college acceptance letters, take time to review them carefully and celebrate! Then reflect. Ask yourself which school stood out during your campus visits? Which school offers quality opportunities for achieving your career aspirations? Which school has demonstrated its commitment to helping you reach your goals? What about financial aid? Has the school partnered with you to help fund your education?
Remember that you may also receive rejection and waitlist letters, which is okay. Your friends might also receive their acceptance letters before you do. No need to fret; this happens. Focus on what you need to do. Try to stay away from forums and message boards. It also helps to not set your heart on a single school; be sure to have several colleges on your best-fit list.
When you decide which college you want to choose, notify that school immediately. Some schools require commitment notifications and financial deposits early. Attend pre-orientation events during the summer to acclimate yourself to campus and prepare you for the first semester.
You’ve got this! College application season may appear daunting, but you should know that no one is asking you to do anything you’re not capable of doing. In times like these, remember to use the support system you’ve built over the years. Parents, friends, teachers, counselors, and mentors are here to advise or simply reassure you. Also, remember to enjoy your senior year; if you spend all year yearning for graduation, you will miss out on your last year of high school.
Now, get ready to embark on your next adventure. You’re taking an important step toward discovering who you truly are and becoming even stronger throughout your search for your best-fit school.