by Kerry Lynch
October 12, 2020
Students, should you be in a panic if you are a senior and have not started applying to college? You should not! There is plenty of time to make a good college plan and find the right match college for you. Start right now! The key is to be organized. Plus, who doesn’t want a good checklist to stay on track?
But, before I get to the checklist, here are a few other thoughts I would like to share about the college admissions cycle with all the seniors out there. You have heard these sayings before, this is a marathon, not a sprint and this is a process, not an event and they are true. You must be patient with yourself above all else. Becoming a high school senior does not confer some amazing level of wisdom where you instantly know what you want to major in, what career you will love, and what is the perfect college to get you there.
While you do have to move forward in the process, bear in mind that you have until the winter to apply to four-year colleges and community colleges have open enrollment right up until classes start. You will not be left out of higher education. Keep in mind that in order to have the most options, you should plan to have applications ready by January 15th. Finally, regardless of when you applied, with the exception of Early Decision applications, you will have until May 1st to make your final decision. There is a lot of growing, learning, and life that happens senior year, which will help you set your priorities and feel confident, come spring, in your best course of action.
Below is a senior checklist for those of you who are well on your way and another list of where to begin if you are starting now.
Seniors just getting started – tackle the work in this order:
- If you are applying to four-year colleges, ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation. Be prepared to let the teacher know your earliest deadline.
- Fill out the Common Application and ask your parents to begin the financial aid process by completing the FAFSA.
- Begin work on your essay.
- Use www.bigfuture.com or your high school’s college application software to search for schools and group them into Reach, Target, and Likely categories. See our post from 9/14/2020 to learn more.
- Research your schools more deeply using the college websites and sign up for some virtual information sessions and tours.
- Add colleges to your Common Application and answer the school-specific questions.
- Continue to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the schools you applied to based on your emerging criteria throughout the winter and spring.
Seniors who are nearing the finish line – keep these things on your radar:
- Check in with your guidance counselor and circle back around to your recommenders to make sure they are aware of your timelines.
- Ask someone to review your Common Application for accuracy.
- Ask your parents to begin the financial aid process by completing the FAFSA.
- Take the final steps to link the Common Application to your high school software and meet with your school counselor to be sure everything is in order.
- Finalize and polish your essay.
- Continue to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the schools you applied to based on your emerging criteria. Be open to changing your mind, seeing your earlier favorite get replaced by another etc.