Senior Year. You’ve made it! You survived summer and are on your way to conquering your final year of high school like the true boss that you are.
At this point, you’re a few months shy of being thrown into the daunting world of higher education. Everything you’ve worked for these past three years has led up to this moment. Since you’re an ambitious person, you know that college isn’t the end of the academic and professional road.
By now, you should have some idea of where you want to be after you get your degree. You don’t need an exact career in mind nor do you have to know the precise university where you’ll study. As long as you have a vision of how successful you want to be and a couple of options on how you’ll get there, you’ll be fine.
Rule of thumb: It’s better to have a plan and go to a school within your budget, as opposed to having no plan at all and go to an incredibly expensive school.
Keeping these things in mind, you should enter this decisive school year with a clear and unshaken resolve to graduate and get into the right university.
For the third part of this college guide, I’ve broken down everything by month, because, honestly, you should work through your senior year with a timeline in mind.
Everything, from supplemental essays to interviews have a due date. It may not be an actual “deadline,” but if you make time limits for yourself for every application you’ll be less stressed and more productive.
For the first month of your senior year, you will want to:
1. List all of the application deadlines for every college on your final list.
Make a master calendar with each deadline for scholarships and applications. I suggest writing it on a whiteboard and putting it in a place where you will often see it. Enter each one in a chronological order with more recent deadlines at the very top and later ones at the very bottom.
I actually wrote my master calendar on the mirror in my bedroom. And for my entire senior year, I looked like a hag because I couldn’t use that mirror to get ready in the morning. It was always filled with deadlines and reminders.
Keep track of this master calendar! Make changes when a deadline gets moved or you choose to drop an application.
2. Also, you should get your shit together.
If you haven’t already, keep your GPA as high as you possibly can. Remember, this is the first thing colleges and universities look at when they assess you. This tells them where you are academically. Your GPA will be factored in with extracurricular activities, service work, and your ACT and/or SAT test scores.
3. Figure out your college essay topics and write them.
Get everything checked and proofread by at least two people, no more than three. If you have too many people read them, then your writing stops being you. It becomes a conglomerate of everybody else. You don’t want that because your essay should be about you and remain in your voice, as opposed to the mass of people reading your essays.
If you get stuck on a topic about yourself, then do some meditation. It can be yoga, running, or even cartwheels; just do something that helps you think. For me, running is a time when I let my mind go free and I don’t worry about anything. That’s when I thought about my essay topics deeply. Give yourself time to slowly go through a creative process. You want your essay to highlight your best traits.
There are about a thousand other kids who have the same credentials as you. So, what sets you apart? That’s the main thing with all college essays. Keep in mind that you want your essay to talk about your high points, but don’t come off as self-absorbed or unconfident. You’ll want to maintain a happy medium.
In the latter part of the fall semester:
1. APPLY, APPLY, APPLY!
Start your applications and follow your master calendar religiously. Be sure you follow all deadlines and give yourself breathing space in between applications. Please, I beg of you, please don’t turn in your applications two minutes before they’re due. There could be many technical glitches that could occur if you turn in your application too close to the deadline–you don’t want to be the person to email an admissions counselor in order to apologize for a late application. That will reflect negatively on you and many colleges do not accept late applications.
2. Keep up your grades.
I think this is kind of obvious.
3. Retake the ACT/SAT
If you need to, but only if you REALLY need a couple extra test score points. Otherwise, if you got all your stuff done before your senior year, you don’t have to worry about it that much.
4. Have fun.
Please don’t forget this part. I was like a nun my entire senior year because I’d skip a lot of fun stuff for school. It might’ve even put a strain on many of my relationships with others. Senior year will truly show you a person’s true colors, so be careful who you befriend and stay friends with.
5. Keep your record clean.
Whatever you do, stay out of trouble. You don’t want one little bad mark on any record. This can throw you out of the running for certain colleges and scholarships. I think we’ve all heard the horror stories of promising students losing everything they’ve worked for over one little mistake. It’s okay that you’re not perfect.
However, keep your actions, words, and internet life in check. Admission counselors look at social media and they can judge you based on what they see. Lock all your social media accounts from public view until graduation, or, if it’s that big of a problem, delete them altogether. You can reactivate Facebook, and many other social network accounts later.
6. Get ready for possible interviews.
Make sure you are on your best behavior with everyone in the interview room, including the secretary or even an usher. Dress in business formal clothes. Have a copy of your resume in a nice folder so you can look professional. Even if the interview is informal, by making a good impression you can help your chances of acceptance by dressing the part and presenting the best version of yourself.
Nowadays, interviews aren’t as crucial as they were before; they’re not even mandatory in most schools. However, if a university offers interviews, then do it. Going the extra mile shows demonstrated interest. Before you even step into an interview room, do a mock interview with a guidance counselor or a trusted older friend.
The fall semester of your senior year will be one of the most stressful times you will experience in your academic career thus far. It’s okay to get overwhelmed every now and then. It’s also okay to cry once in a while to vent your frustration. No one will judge you, because they’re probably doing the same. Sweatpants/yoga pants, university admissions officers, and the common application will be your best friends during this time. This semester is going to be one heck of a roller coaster ride, so prepare yourself by stocking up on tissues and good tea.
May the force be with you, my young padawan.