Your senior year of highschool may be one of the most important transitions in life as you close one chapter and open a new one pursing new things. Throughout elementary school and middle school, you probably had a set routine that you followed everyday. In high school, you begin to experience a little more freedom in academia as you set up your class schedule, sign up for electives, sign up for SAT/ACT test prep courses, and possibly get your driver’s license. There are plenty of opportunities for growth in high school; however, during your senior year of high school you will be faced with the huge decision of what you will do once you graduate from high school. Making important decisions about whether you will go to a college or a university, what degree you will pursue, where you will live, and how you will pay for housing and other living expenses will most likely be the biggest challenge of your senior year. Fear not! Your senior year is the year of possibilities as you can enjoy this season in life by following the roadmap to navigate the final steps in high school.
College applications: If you have not figured out what you are interested in studying or where you want to go to college, spend the summer before senior year focused on exploring all of your options. If you have done what is suggested in the junior year blog, you are ready to move onto the college application phase of your journey. If you have not reached your target score on the SAT or ACT, consider pairing with a tutor to increase your score for a better chance of attaining scholarships and acceptance into your dream school(s). For your college applications, you will need the following:
- Get started: Missing college and university application deadlines can be very easy to do. Find out which college application deadline is right for you since there are multiple listed deadlines for applications and you want to put yourself in the best position to succeed by applying by the appropriate deadline. Make a checklist of what you will need to include in your application, such as an official or unofficial transcript, letters of recommendation, SAT or ACT scores, resume and application essay. Make sure to request transcripts and send SAT or ACT scores as soon as you have completed a college application or even before you are finished.
- Letters of recommendation: Make sure you have at least two letters of recommendation. At least one letter of recommendation should be from a teacher to vouch for your academic achievements and your excellence as a student. The other letter could be from an employer, if you have a job, or a community or school leader (such as a youth director, service project coordinator, school club director, etc) as they can write about your teamwork skills, your leadership, your commitment, your work ethic, and and your character.
- Resume: It is important to have an updated, polished resume. Make
sure that your resume is concise–one or two pages–and relevant. Admissions personnel at colleges and universities will briefly skim your resume, so make sure that your resume is arranged in order of importance. Your resume will also greatly help you when filling out your college applications.
- Advanced classes: Your GPA is one of the first things that admissions personnel will notice on your application. They will also notice whether or not you have taken any advanced classes and how you performed in these courses. It is easy to let your grades slip in your classes during your senior; however, it is especially important to keep your grades up at the end when it may be extra tempting to let go. Most universities require an end-of-year transcript and several also require a mid-year transcript, so your schools of interest will know if you’re slacking off.
- Leadership: When admissions personnel at colleges and universities have many qualified applicants, one of the factors that may set you apart from other applicants is your unique leadership ability. When two candidates are compared for the last few spots in a competitive school, a unique leadership position may go a long way in getting you the final slot at a college or university.
- Essay writing: Many college applications require an admissions essay which may be another deciding factor as to whether you will get into the school. If you have a strong resume with a high GPA, but your essay is mediocre, you may be eliminated from the pool of candidates. On the other hand, you may not have a perfect GPA, but if you nail your essay, you may still be accepted to your dream school. Do not underestimate the power of an admissions essay and find out more on how to create a strong application essay. Our college counselors are experts at crafting the perfect admissions essay, so if you need help, just let us know.
Other factors to consider: It’s not too difficult to remember that you need to apply for college since most of your teachers and counselors will frequently remind you. However, many students may forget other factors such as financial assistance, when to apply, and even accepting an admission offer. Here are some factors you may not have thought about:
- Scholarship applications: Scholarships are a great way to pay for college. There are many scholarships that are left unclaimed at the end of the school year, which means there may be scholarships that you are missing. Take some time to carefully find out which scholarships you qualify for, and what the application process is to get the scholarship. At The Brain Domain, we offer scholarship advising to help you take advantage of scholarships available to you.
- Timing: Although there are several deadlines for most schools, the sooner you submit your application, the better. This does not not mean that you need to or should choose “early decision” or “early action.” You can still apply regular decision and submit your applications early. Schools begin selecting students as soon as applications start rolling in, so there is a definite advantage to applying early. If you think you are a competitive applicant (whether due to scores, grades, or leadership experience), applying “early action” is probably a good idea. However, even those who are not competitive should apply early through regular decision.
- The FAFSA: Although the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is not directly part of the application process, it is still very important. The FAFSA applies students for grants and loans through the federal government. Some schools require all students to complete the FAFSA whether they think they will be granted aid or not. The FAFSA is available from January until June of each year.
- Decision Time: Once spring has arrived, you will likely have heard back from all of the schools you have applied to. Now is the time to review all of the schools you were accepted to, compare scholarship awards, and consider all of the factors related to each school. Which campus did you love? Which university is the highest ranked in your desired program of study? Were you admitted to your desired program of study at that school? Which school offered you the largest scholarship, or which school is now the most affordable? Which school is in my desired location? The questions go on and on. Try your best to narrow down the schools to which you were accepted and notify schools that you have chosen not to attend so they can extend an invitation to another student. Finally, you must make a decision on which university you will attend and notify the school of your acceptance of admission. Congratulations!
Enjoy Your Senior Year: Take advantage of your senior year by making memories with you family and friends doing things that you love.
- Share dinner with you family. These past few years you may have spent more time away from home working, studying, volunteering, or hanging out with friends. Make some time this year to be intentional about planning dinner with your family. Cooking as a family may be a fun bonding experience, or perhaps ordering delivery food and playing games as a family on a Friday night is more your style. Whatever you and your family enjoy, plan some nights this year that everyone in your family schedules to have dinner together. Some of the best conversations happen at the dinner table, so take time this year to spend with your family, to hug them a little closer, and to tell them how much you love and appreciate them.
- Be a tourist in your hometown. With your friends, spend a few weekends this year doing all of the “touristy” things in your town that you have not had the opportunity to do yet. If you will be moving out of town or out of state for college, it is the perfect time to take advantage of what your city has to offer. It is easy to take for granted the place that we call “home,” so pack a picnic and head out to the city or countryside for a day of adventure with your friends from high school.
Ask your parents, teachers, and mentors for advice as you venture into the next phase in your life. The people closest to you will know you and be able to offer honest feedback on what the best options will be for you. It may be overwhelming feedback if you seek out advice from everyone you know, but it is definitely a good idea to seek feedback on your college/university plans from a few trusted individuals who know you well and have already navigated through this stage in life.
Transitioning from high school to college may require you to step outside of your comfort zone and take a leap of faith as you venture on this challenging and immensely rewarding path to higher education. College is a time of self discovery for individuals, so get excited for the adventure ahead. As Mark Twain stated, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”