Never underestimate the importance of high school when it comes to college preparation. Preparing for college is a process that, for some, starts earlier than their high school careers. However, if you’re just getting started with the college planning in high school, there are a few things to make sure you take care of your during the first semester of your senior year. Here’s your senior year checklist:
1. Secure Your Top Colleges
Ideally, by this time you should have your top college choices locked in. If not, it’s important that you go ahead and decide on which schools you’ll be applying to. Knowing where you want to apply will save you a lot of stress when it comes time to submit applications.
2. Get Ready to Apply
Most schools have deadlines in January to apply for admission in the following fall. (So if you’re a high school senior applying to college now, you’ll be applying for admission for the 2018-2019 academic year.) Go through each school’s requirements and create a checklist of everything you’ll need to apply. Request transcripts and letters of recommendation as early as possible, and start writing your application essays. If you want to apply early decision or early action (with earlier deadlines), make sure you have everything ready to go even earlier!
If you’re counting on financial aid to help you pay for college, make sure you fill out the required documents on time to get the ball rolling. (The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the best place to start.) Each school you apply to has different deadlines for financial aid, and may have forms you need to fill out in addition to the FAFSA. Make sure you keep up with them to ensure you’re doing all you can to get financial aid. The last thing you want to do is wait until your first day of college to figure out financials.
4. Take the SAT or ACT
Most colleges require your SAT or ACT score to apply. Most high school students know what this is, but for those who are unfamiliar, the SAT and ACT are assessments that test your readiness for college. The test has English, math, science, and reading sections. There is an optional writing portion as well. The better you do on either (or both) of these tests, the higher your chances are of getting into your top colleges. Sometimes you can even get a scholarship if your score is high enough. Make sure to schedule a time to take the SAT or ACT before you apply to your schools.
5. Think About Your Future
Especially during your first year of college, you’ll be asked over and over again if you’ve decided on a major and what you want to do with your life. These aren’t easy questions to answer, and it can be stressful trying to come up with a plan when you’re already surrounded by an overwhelming feeling of stress. There will be pressure, and a lot of it. To stay sane and on top of things, brainstorm careers and different degree programs. Decide which ones sound most interesting to you. At least at that point, you’ll have some idea of what you might want to do, and can start exploring that path.
Though senior year can be stressful and full of new challenges, remember, you’re sketching out your future. You’re preparing for an education that will give you an experience of a lifetime and prepare you for a great career. These are big choices you’re making, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find the fun in doing it!