Getting accepted into college, applying for financial aid, finding living arrangements and registering for your classes can seem intimidating. There is a lot to do during your senior year in high school, so prioritize, talk to advisers, and keep a calendar to stay on top of details and deadlines. When applying for college, it’s important to “wake up and follow up” throughout these processes.
Before your senior year, you should begin researching colleges and meet with your guidance counselor to discuss your post-high school plans. Go to college fairs and visit college campuses to take tours and have on-campus interviews with an admissions representative. They will let you know what you need to be accepted to that particular institution.
Make sure to take challenging high school classes that meet the requirements of the college you may choose. Also, begin getting your application “résumé” in order, listing accomplishments, activities and work experience.
You’ll also want to start keeping a calendar with important dates and deadlines for the application process and other arrangements.
Fall of Your Senior Year
When your senior year begins, register for the fall SAT and SAT subject test (if required). Once you have taken the test and received the scores, make sure your scores are sent to each of your prospective colleges. Also, get your teacher or employer to agree to write a letter of recommendation. Give them time to meet your application deadlines and do them the courtesy of giving them a stamped and addressed envelope.
By November, you should send your application to the colleges on your list of choices. Some smaller institutions have limited space and may accept students on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you will need any type of financial aid, fill out and submit a Free Application for Student Financial Aid form as soon as possible. Applying early will improve the chance of receiving financial aid from one or more different sources. You can fill out your application online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Make sure to also keep track of financial aid deadlines for your schools.
There are many types of financial aid, including loans, grants and scholarships. Some are from federal sources, such as a Pell Grant, and some states offer aid as well. Most institutions have lots of financial aid opportunities, so inquire early. There also are lots of private scholarship and loan options, and your financial aid adviser can point you in the right direction if you need either.
Some students also will want to have a job to have some income during college. When you decide on a college, check in with the Career Services office to connect you with an on-campus, part-time job or a local employer who wants to hire college students.
Spring of Your Senior Year
Once you have applied, many institutions will create a student online account, including a personal email address. Remember to check your student online account early and often. It is through university email and your student online account that you most likely will receive important instructions about additional documentation or information needed to process your admission, financial aid, registration and other essential items.
In March and April, read your acceptance letters when they arrive. Some may include further instructions for the applications process, so don’t delay. If you are going to take Advanced Placement exams, avoid “senioritis” these months and study hard. AP scores can determine how much college credit is granted. And college credit can mean big financial savings.
Summer Before College
During the summer, visit an academic adviser before you register for classes. An adviser can help you get the courses you need and begin charting your degree plan so you can keep up with what courses to take and which semesters to take them.
Get your fall semester bill paid as quickly as possible. Also, check to make sure you have completed all forms and met all deadlines so financial aid funds are distributed to your student account in a timely manner.
You also should get your required medical vaccines. Most colleges require vaccines for measles, mumps, bacterial meningitis and rubella varicella (chickenpox), or proof of having had the condition, and hepatitis B and a tetanus booster if it’s been more than 10 years since your last shot. In addition, you should consider getting shots to prevent pneumonia, human papillomavirus and hepatitis A. These are contagious illnesses that can spread easily in places like a dorm where there is close contact with other students.
You also will need to finalize housing plans, whether it is in a dormitory or an apartment. When you get that settled, open an account at a nearby financial institution.
Lastly, make sure to attend the university’s student orientation to get familiar with the campus so you don’t waste time finding classrooms the first day of courses. It also is a place to learn important information about academic matters and campus rules, as well as a great place to begin making friends and adjusting to campus life.
If you keep up with everything on your “to do” list, you will be well on your way to getting your college degree. Good luck!