The first semester of senior year is filled with anticipation. It’s your last year of high school and you have so much to look forward to, such as graduation and college. But in order to reach those goals, you have some high-priority things in the area of college admissions and creating the best college application that you can.
1. Get recommendation letters.
There’s no time to waste. Teachers and administrators and other mentors are busy people. With multiple students asking for recommendation letters, you want to be first in line. If you’ve done your homework, you have built relationships and now it’s time to ask for that college recommendation. Choose people who know you well and will be able to make the recommendations more personal.
2. Complete the college essays.
It’s time to put the finishing touches on that college essay you began working on over the summer. Remember the essay is your chance to demonstrate who you are. Be yourself and don’t try to write what you think admissions officers want to hear. Once your essay is completed, have someone proofread it before submitting with the application.
3. Finalize your college list.
It’s time to nail down your college choices. Review your notes and anything you learned during college interviews. Look at the entire picture for each college: Is it a fit academically, socially and financially? Are you at the top of the applicant pool and in the best position to receive merit aid? Make sure you have some colleges on your final list that are reach schools, some that are perfect fit schools, and some that are schools where you are pretty much ensured acceptance.
4. Visit the colleges on your list.
Fall is the perfect time for college visits. Not only will those visits help you finalize your list, but visiting a college demonstrates interest. Once the colleges receive your application, they will check to see how interested you are in attending and that will influence admissions officers. While you are on campus, schedule an interview and an appointment with the financial aid office. Ask questions that will help you finalize your college list.
5. Complete the FAFSA.
The FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – is available online. You should make filing it out a priority and the sooner the better. Colleges will be awarding financial aid this year along with their admissions decisions. You want to be first in line for this merit aid, so file now. Students who complete the FAFSA are not only eligible for federal aid, but for college-based aid such as grants and scholarships.
6. One last task: Submit your college application ASAP.
Consider submitting your application early. Applying early decision or early action means you will hear from the colleges sooner and also get information on your financial aid award. If you apply EA (early action) you’re not bound to any one college and you can apply to more than one. If you know the college you want to attend and it’s your absolute first choice, you can apply ED (early decision). You are bound to accept the school’s offer of admission, however, and you cannot apply to other colleges.