As a high school senior, you have a lot on your plate. These suggestions will help you stay on track this fall.
Make an appointment with your college counselor. There’s a lot to discuss with your counselor in the fall of your senior year, but make sure to cover a few key topics. Discuss the state of your college list and any college visits you went on over the summer. Ask about the process for sending transcripts to colleges. If you want your counselor to review your essays or applications, ask if s/he is willing to do so. Your counselor will be sending a recommendation letter for you to colleges, as well. With that in mind, share any updates about new accomplishments, awards, or interesting experiences.
Ask for any outstanding recommendation letters. Most colleges need at least one, and sometimes two letters of recommendation from teachers in core subject areas (math, science, English, social science, or foreign language). Check in with any teachers you may have asked at the end of junior year. If you only have one teacher lined up, think of one or two more teachers who would be happy to write you a positive letter of recommendation. And remember – colleges prefer recommendation letters from junior and senior year teachers.
Review your standardized testing results and make a fall plan. Collect any SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Test scores you have from sophomore or junior year. If you feel comfortable with your scores – great! However, if you feel you can improve your scores significantly, consider planning to take (or retake) tests in the fall. The fall is also the time to make sure you’ve taken all necessary Subject Tests, as some colleges require these additional tests for admission.
Start working on your college applications. Even if you’re applying Early Decision or Early Action, November 1 might seem really far away. However, it is in your best interest to start filling out the Common Application (and any other college applications) now. Starting early will give you time to collect information that you may not know off the top of your head. For instance…Where did your parents go to college or graduate school? What are all of the honors and awards you received in high school? What is your social security number? The earlier you start filling out the forms, the more time you’ll have to review, research, and feel confident about your application.
Set aside time to work on your essays. The writing process is different for every student, and you need to figure out what works best for you. The most important thing is that you start brainstorming, thinking, and writing now. Review the Common Application prompts and the essay prompts from other colleges. College essay prompts are usually pretty open-ended, so you have a lot of flexibility with topics. Some students enjoy free-writing to get ideas flowing. Others need more structured brainstorming activities. If you’re really stuck, ask your English teacher or college counselor for some essay writing tips.
Keep up your academic performance! Colleges are interested in all of your academic work, not just junior year. You have signed up for challenging courses this year, and now you have to maintain your strong grades and show how you perform in a rigorous curriculum. If your grades were a bit weaker in junior year, fall semester senior year is an opportunity to show improvement. Either way, you want to start senior year with your best foot forward and show colleges your best academic work so far.