This is it! It is your final year of high school before you start a new chapter of your life as a college student. Exciting, isn’t it? Well, before you start daydreaming about decorating your college dorm or dating college students, it is time for your final reality check.
The college of your dreams may seem so close, but there are still some very important tasks to accomplish before that dream can come true. So, here is a list of the final things to do to help you prepare for college as a high school senior.
1. Continue to Take a Heavy Course Load and Keep Grades High
Just because your final grades (sometimes just your second semester grades) will not show on your college application, does not mean that you can slack off. College admission boards will see it one way or another.
If you earn high enough scores on your AP final tests, some colleges will accept it as transfer courses or allow you to waive certain required courses. In addition to this, your senior year grades could be the “make it or break it” point for some of the colleges you apply to.
2. Take the SAT II: Subject Tests
Not many colleges require you to take the SAT subject tests, but why not give yourself a competitive advantage? Sending an application with good SAT scores and high GPA is not enough these days. Achieving high scores on subject tests is a great way to show college admission boards that you are not afraid to take on more challenges. SAT subject tests take a lot of time and effort to master so if you can get high scores, it will help you get the extra boost towards that approval letter.
[Stay organized with the College Planning Calendar + Checklist.]
3. Ask for Recommendations and Other Related Documents
You are not the only high school senior in your school asking for recommendation letters, so ask your teachers in advance. If there is a “favorite” teacher in school, he/she will have already been asked half a dozen times for recommendation letters by other students. Be sure to ask early and ask the teachers with whom you actually have good relationships.
There is nothing worse than a generic recommendation letter saying that you were just a good student—this is translation for “you were average and I don’t know you well enough to write any details in this letter.” College admission boards look for recommendation letters that highlight your achievements in and out of the classroom. If you have a strong relationship with a teacher, he/she will know about your achievements outside of class. Also, make sure to send your official transcripts well before the deadline.
4. Draft, Rewrite and Edit Your College Application… Then Send!
Your grades, your SATs and your extracurricular activity involvements are factors that cannot be easily changed at this point. This means that the essays you write in your college applications are the last chance to shine. Don’t just write one draft and hit send. The worst mistake you can make on a college application is not sharing your writing with a mentor, advisor, or even a parent. They not only help you with grammar and technical mistakes, but they could help shape and form your average topic/idea if necessary. Also, do not forget to write multiple revisions before submitting the final application.
5. Submit FAFSA and Apply for Scholarships
Let’s face it, college is expensive and you do not want to pay tuition straight out of your (or your parents’) pocket. Even if you are going to an in-state school, there are many things you can do to cut down your cost. Don’t be the stereotypical “broke college student.” Ask your parents to help you fill out the FAFSA form to help you get government grants and loans. If you have the time, search and apply to scholarships. There are hundreds of thousands of scholarships for all sorts of niche and unique students. There is a scholarship for jugglers, just to give you an example! The worst thing you can do is forgo the opportunity to earn scholarship money if you are qualified to apply. It’s free money. Take it!