Hi guys! Long time no see. I’ve officially graduated high school and thought I’d make a post for all you incoming seniors about some things I’d wish I’d known senior year/some tips and tricks to help make your senior year less stressful because we all need a little less stress in our lives ha. So without further ado,
Make your college list over the summer: The summer before senior year is the time to finalize your college list. Do this by making a list of places you’re interested in and narrow it down based on fit. Try to visit if possible but if you can’t, most schools have virtual tours that you can take online. Make sure to have your list done before September. College apps are expensive and the fees for sending test scores to your respective schools add to the cost. Include at least one safety and two match schools on your list.
Get a calendar and mark all the deadlines for college apps, scholarships, testing, when test scores have to be sent in, etc. It will keep you organized and on track.
Start your essays over the summer (or at least brainstorm some ideas): You don’t necessarily have to start your college essays over the summer - I didn’t - but at least make a list of ideas, look over the prompts if they’ve been released, and familiarize yourself with common essay structures and how to write a good college essay. You should have a pretty good idea by September of what you want to include in your essays. Start them early so that you’ll get enough time to show them to your English teacher, parents, or anybody whose input you value.
While there are some topics for college essays that are too cliché and aren’t worth writing about (you can find a list here), in general, don’t be afraid of writing about something that you think will be cliché. If you give a topic an original spin and people can hear your voice and tell that it was a unique experience, you’re fine.
DON’T PLAGARIZE OR HAVE A PARENT/TEACHER/FRIEND/OTHER PERSON WRITE YOUR ESSAYS. No matter how tempted you are, just don’t. It will cause you more troubles that is worth and can get you in serious trouble (plus the moral repercussions of it). Be you and write your own essays.
Ask for your teacher recs early. This means to ask teachers by late September at the latest. Teachers need time to write your recs and chances are, you’re not the only one asking said teacher for a rec. Getting your request in early will make sure that you’ll get a letter of rec and that the teacher will have enough time to write a good letter of rec.
Ask for letters of rec from teachers you know will write something good about you. Go for teachers you’ve known for more than a year and/or teachers who know you better.
After they’ve written your letter of rec, it is customary to give your teachers a gift. A gift card, food, or a personalized gift/memento are in order.
Your counselor is your best friend. Seriously. Be prepared to spend significant time in the counselor’s office or emailing your counselor. You’ll likely have a lot of questions about the whole college apps process and that’s ok. Your counselor has done it before and is there to help you. Plus, most colleges require a counselor letter of rec so you’ll need to get to know your counselor and your counselor will have to get to know you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because it will significantly reduce your stress.
It is also encouraged to get your counselor a gift if you feel they’ve helped you a lot. It’s a nice gesture that shows you care.
Send your test scores in at least 3 weeks before the college’s application deadline. This is super important because some colleges refuse to look at your application if your test scores aren’t in on time *cough* UMich *cough*. Plan ahead. This is why it’s good to have your college apps done early so that you’re not scrambling to send colleges your test scores two days before the deadline. If you’re taking a test in October, make sure to put all the colleges you’re applying to on the list of where you want your scores to be sent to so that the colleges will get the score in time. I had friends who sent their scores in too late and had their application bumped from early action to regular decision at a somewhat selective school where when you applied made all the difference. Seriously, send your scores in early and be done with it.
Most colleges won’t look at an unofficial score report so send the official one at all times. Don’t send paper score reports. We’re not in the 1920s.
If you’ve done all this but your scores will still be late, contact your college’s admissions office and let them know which brings me to my next point.
If you can’t find something on the college’s website or can’t find an answer to a question you have, contact the admissions office! The admissions office can give you the best answers to your questions and can help alleviate any concerns you have. Just make sure not to badger the admissions office because some colleges keep track of how many times you contact them and it can work in your disadvantage.
Don’t have your parents call in because it makes you look bad. You’re old enough to call someone and ask them a few questions.
Start looking for scholarships early. Preferably in the fall. Most of the big and prestigious scholarships have early deadlines and you don’t want to miss them. Finding the scholarships you want to apply to early gives you enough time to write the essays and get the other materials needed.
Don’t compare yourself to others. There’s no point and it causes unnecessary stress. Be confident in yourself and your application and don’t worry about where others have applied/gotten in to or about what others have put on their applications.
These are just a few points that I thought were worth mentioning. Good luck! Senior year will be over before you know it so enjoy it :)