“Senioritis” is an infamous disease that plagues students when they reach their final year of high school, leaving them incapable of doing anything other than staring wistfully out of the windows of their classrooms. If you or a loved one has come down with senioritis, you should immediately consult with… Alright, maybe senioritis isn’t necessarily a disease, but it does affect a lot of seniors who believe that they can coast through their last year of high school before moving on to college. Unfortunately, this belief may be leading seniors astray. Senior year is an incredibly important time to finalize your college choices, submit your applications, and generally prepare for the transition from high school to college. Here are some of the things that you should be doing.
Choose a good mix of colleges to apply to. You may have heard the term “safety school” before to refer to schools that have admission standards that you can easily meet. Although I don’t like that term, it is important to apply to 1 or 2 schools that you know you can get into, 1 or 2 schools that you’re fairly certain that you can get into, and 1 or 2 that might be a bit of a reach (but that you still have a reasonable shot at). Make sure that you have good reasons for applying to each college (other than that it’s a “safety”), and that you’ve thought about everything you want out of college, from the campus experience to the class size. If you’re already planning to go to grad school, look for colleges that have a good track record for getting their students into graduate programs.
Prioritize college applications. If you want to get really organized, draw out a table (or use a program like Excel) to keep track of all your college applications, the individual components of the application that each college requires, the date it needs to be submitted by, and the application fee. The applications with the earliest deadline should be the highest priority, and if any of your schools use the Common Application, fill that out early in the fall so that a huge chunk of your work is done.
Check and double check your apps and essays. Before you submit any applications, recheck the college’s website to make sure you’re including all the components that they require—you wouldn’t want to discover that you missed a non-optional essay right before the deadline! Also make sure that you’ve had your parents, teachers, or another strong writer look over your essays. Even if you’re a strong writer, it’s always good to have another set of eyes checking for minor errors and finding places for improvement.
Visit college campuses. If at all possible, go on tours of the colleges that you are applying to. Colleges are one thing in a brochure and something else entirely once you’re actually on campus. A school that might not have stood out to you before can suddenly seem like a good fit after you visit the campus, or a school that you really liked on paper might not hold up to your expectations in person. Going on a campus tour is a great way to see academic buildings, libraries, and dorm rooms, and will give you a chance to ask current students about their experiences. You may even be able to sit in on a class to get a taste of what a college’s academics are like.
Apply for scholarships. Lots and lots of scholarships. Once you visit campuses and submit all your applications, you might think that the college prep process is over. Nope. During the spring of your senior year, while you’re waiting to hear back from colleges, you should be applying to as many scholarships as you can to offset the cost of tuition. Look for local scholarships, scholarships for niche interests, or scholarships that require extra effort (like writing a 10 page essay) in order to increase your odds of being awarded money for college.
Final tip: Don’t panic. If you put in the work and apply to a good mix of college, odds are you’ll be getting one or more acceptance letters. Once all the applications are turned in, take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief and remind yourself not to stress out too much. Plenty of time for that once you’re in college!
Juliana Weiss-Roessler is a writer for Olivet Nazarene University School of Graduate and Continuing Studies in Bourbonnais, IL. Her writing has been featured on high-traffic websites, such as Yahoo.com, and in major publications, such as PARADE and People. Along with her husband, Juliana lives with their two tiny-but-rambunctious dogs and one tiny-but-rambunctious baby boy.