How High School Seniors Can Maximize Their College Prep
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High School

Upcoming High School Seniors, Here's How To Conquer The College Process In 11 Steps

Warning: it never seems to end, so be prepared.

woman with backpack standing outside building

Summer's ending, school's just around the corner, senior year is coming up and — oh, wait, college applications. This was exactly what hit me last year as I was entering senior year. In the midst of all the excitement, early action college deadlines just seemed to pop up out of nowhere and attack me with loads of work. So, seniors, I'm here to help you try to avoid some of the stress senior year comes with.

1. Common App.

This is one of the most time-consuming things but once you get it out of the way, it'll make your life so much easier. If you haven't already, create your account. This is where you will be applying to the majority of your colleges (some colleges have different ways of applying so check beforehand). Fill out the sections about yourself, your family, background, etc. This way when you go to apply for your colleges, all of your stuff will already be on there.

2. College essay

It is best to get this done as early as possible because once you're in school, the work begins to pile up and it will be very overwhelming. I edited mine and rewrote it during the summer and when senior year started, I asked a few English teachers to help me review it. You don't want to ask too many people for their opinions because you still want the essay to be your voice.

3. Resume

Most colleges don't require this, but it is good to have it and include it in your application. It is basically a rundown of your high school career — your extracurriculars, awards, honors, history, etc. You can search online for templates.

4. Recommendations

You want to make sure who you're asking is someone who knows who you are academically and as a student. I talked to my teachers junior year to ask them if they could write it for me and then by the first week of senior year, I went back to remind them. Remember to ask early, as some teachers may already have a long list of students to write letters for.

Since I am a nursing major, I asked my chemistry teacher and my junior year math teacher. You want to make sure they would write something that would help your major (although this isn't always the case). I also had a personal connection with these teachers who knew my character and who I was. Never ask too many people for recommendations. Most colleges need only one or two teacher recommendations and a counselor one.

5. SATs, ACTs, APs, etc.

You want to make sure all your test scores are settled and sent in. You may have to pay a fee to send your scores in if you exceed the number that they give you for free. Scores take about a week or two to be sent in. Remember, most schools super score the ACT and SAT, which helps.

6. Pick your colleges

You should have some idea of which colleges you would like to apply to. If not, it's completely fine! All you need to do is research, research, research. Have a couple safety schools, match schools, and reach schools. You never know what college is going to accept you and give you, so it's good to have options.

Make sure the schools you are applying to are ones you actually want to go to. This was the mistake I made. I applied just to apply. It ends up being a big waste of money if you don't end up going. I picked colleges based on my priorities which were price, location, programs and internship opportunities. I applied to eight colleges, but it doesn't matter how many you apply to — at the end of the day, you pick one.

7. Transcripts

Remember, the majority of your senior class is also applying to schools too, so it's better to request for the transcripts for each of your schools early.

8. Apply — and pay attention to deadlines

Applying is pretty easy when you have everything else all set and ready. Some colleges may require supplements, so take that into account in your timeline. College applications also can be expensive as well, so keep that in mind. I was working the fall of my senior year so each week when I was paid, I would apply to one or two schools.

Also, deadlines are extremely important. Some schools require some programs to apply early action, so I would check which schools to prioritize time-wise. Most nursing or pharmacy programs require EA.


This is important! Most colleges will ask for this later in the year, but it's good to get it over with. It only takes an hour or so. Some schools, mostly private ones, require the CSS Profiler too, which does take a little longer.

10. Don't overthink

After applying, I was still stressed. What if I don't get in? Should I apply to more safety schools? I stress watched those "I-got-rejected-by-every-college" videos. It is extremely competitive to get into nursing programs nowadays, so you can understand my dilemma and stress. But now that I look back at it, I had nothing to be worried about. Don't overthink or underestimate yourself. You never know what those admissions people are thinking. I thought I would be rejected by every college, but when the time came, it turns out I was accepted by every one.

11. First-quarter grades

I know, even with all of this going on, you still have to worry about your grades. Some colleges want you to send in your first-quarter grades of senior year. Time management is key here. Although, just know that even if your grades are horrible first-quarter (as long as you're not failing anything), colleges understand how busy fall is for high school seniors. They will understand and it won't affect their decision too much.

If you are really concerned, email each college you are applying to ask if they require it. If they don't, why send it in? I speak from experience because my grades started to slip as I was balancing work, school and college apps. I ended up with the lowest GPA of my high school career but still, I sent it in. A month later, I was accepted to the one school I had sent it in to.

I was personally a very eager senior about college applications. I had met the deadlines a month before they were due for early action deadlines and liked to be on top of my game. I even filled out my FAFSA 30 minutes after it had opened up. I also organized all of my college materials (acceptance letters, fliers, etc.) into a binder by each school I was applying to.

I know you're reading this and probably thinking this sounds so extra, and you're right. Each person has their own timeline and pace that they like to work at. I know people who didn't even apply by the EA deadline and waited for the regular one. There are also people who don't fill out their FAFSA until months later. But this schedule and these tips helped me stay in line my senior year and I hope they help you too! Good luck!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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