Resources / Prepare And Apply

Do's and Don'ts for High School Seniors

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Your senior year of high school is finally here. For many students, senior year involves lots of homework, lack of sleep, deadlines, and essays plus college research, college applications, counselor meetings, and scholarship deadlines. Here is a list of senior year do’s and don’ts to help you navigate your last year of high school.

DO: TAKE YOUR ACT/SAT TESTS SERIOUSLY

If your previous SAT or ACT test result(s) didn’t meet your expectations, you may still have time to retake the test (or, if you haven’t already taken it, take it for the first time). Although many schools have moved to test optional and test flexible policies, strong SAT and ACT scores may still have a positive impact on the quality of your application and may also improve your scholarship opportunities.

DO: RESEARCH COLLEGES ONLINE

Take time to research a variety of colleges online. You’ll be surprised at how much information you can find on a college’s website. Many colleges also provide a virtual campus tour as well. This is a great resource if you are interested in a college that you are unable to visit in person.

DO: LOOK FOR SCHOLARSHIPS FOR HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS

While you might be overwhelmed senior year, especially with college applications, don’t forget to search and apply for scholarships. You do not always need top grades or super-human accomplishments to qualify for scholarships. You might be a top candidate based on your hometown, your major, your heritage or even a hobby.

DO: VISIT COLLEGES

Visiting colleges can help you figure out what you want and don’t want in a college campus. If possible, visit as many colleges as you can before applying and before making your college decision. If time, opportunity, and cost allow, you might also consider visiting a few colleges that you don’t think you’re interested in because you could stumble upon a school that fits you, or at the very least, you might learn what you don’t want. Whether you are visiting virtually or in person, remember to ask lots of questions

DO: CONSIDER VARIOUS COLLEGES

Don’t limit yourself to only highly selective or non-competitive colleges. Consider balancing your top college choices with target and safety schools that you would also be happy to attend. And make sure to manage your expectations and have a solid back up plan. Better safe than sorry.

DO: ASK QUESTIONS

Connect with college admissions officers at colleges you want to apply to or learn more about, especially if you have questions. High school guidance counselors and private college counselors are another resource for getting answers to your questions about college.

DO: Complete the FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the only way to qualify for college financial aid provided by the federal government, including loans. Some schools also require the CSS Profile. This application is used by many private colleges, along with the FAFSA, to determine eligibility for scholarships and grants they provide.

The CSS Profile and the FAFSA become available on October 1 each year. It’s important to complete these forms as soon as possible after they become available and before the financial aid submission deadlines for your colleges.

Do: Set up your online application accounts

If you plan to use the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or a statewide college application, create an account as soon as possible, and get familiar with the application environment, essay questions, and processes for submitting your application and recommendations.

DO: STAY ORGANIZED

Deadlines are everywhere when applying to colleges, and senior year is busy. You’ll soon be balancing your high school course load, extracurricular activities and other commitments with preparing for and taking the ACT or SAT, completing your college applications, and writing your application essays. To keep on top of it all, find an organization tool, such as a calendar or an app, to help you organize and remember important college application dates.

DON’T: PROCRASTINATE

You’re going to want to stay ahead of the game senior year, so don’t put things off. Get started on your applications as early as possible, especially your personal essay. Give your teachers, counselor and other recommenders plenty of time to write and submit your recommendation letters, and try not to fall behind in your classes and other commitments. Putting things off will lead to stress and hastily completed applications you might regret later.

DON’T: POST ANYTHING YOU’LL REGRET

Many college admission officers believe it is fair game to visit applicants’ social media profiles like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to help them decide who gets in. To avoid having your social media affect your college admission chances, don’t post anything that is or could be deemed offensive, illegal, inappropriate or even questionable.

DON’T: BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

You probably have lots of questions about college. It’s always okay to ask for help, regardless of what the problem/question may be. Reach out to your parents, counselors, teachers, and friends. College admission reps are another great resource. They not only are there to answer your questions but also want to get to know you and help you find the right college.

DON’T: Catch Senioritis

Once you’ve been admitted to college, you still need to keep up with your schoolwork, do well on exams, and satisfy your graduation requirements. A college can rescind your offer of acceptance if your senior year grades drop dramatically, or if you are convicted of a crime, expelled from school or lied on your application. Watch your behavior, keep up your grades, and don't get into any serious trouble.

DON’T: WORRY TOO MUCH

Letting your final year of high school stress you out isn’t healthy for anyone. Try your best to keep calm and remember that although college may seem confusing and scary, it holds many new opportunities. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel a little overwhelmed, and it’s also okay to take some time to do a few things you enjoy.

DON’T: FORGET TO ENJOY YOUR LAST YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL

Senioritis may be real, but graduation day comes and goes quickly. Don’t forget to enjoy your time with your friends (even if from a safe distance) and take part in senior activities in whatever form they may take. This is your last year of high school. Make the most of it!

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