College Planning Timeline for Seniors

College Planning Timeline for Seniors

Seniors: College is right around the corner! Here’s a college planning timeline for seniors.

As high school students reach their senior year, they often feel a mix of excitement and anxiety. On the one hand, senior year means they have reached a peak – the students are the king of the hill. But then there’s what comes next, and the planning for the next step can be daunting. This is especially true for those high school seniors who intend to move on to higher education. College planning can be a time-consuming, all-encompassing process. Below is a college planning timeline for high school seniors to consider and consult.

Summer (Before Senior Year): Start Before the School Year

Remember when summer meant camp, lying by a pool, family vacations, and just plain relaxing? Well for rising seniors, summer is the time to get into college planning mode. That does not mean high school students should not take time for themselves. They should. One way to do that is to move forward with college planning when they’re not burdened by the pressures of school.

Test Prep

While some schools have dropped this requirement, test scores can still be submitted as part of a college application. If your score is above the average score of incoming freshmen, it can help your case. So, are you satisfied with your standardized test scores? What about your subject tests? If you have not achieved a score that you are content with, summer is the time to take practice tests, so you are ready to retake the SAT or ACT. Both exams have test dates in the summer. Knock it out before the school year begins so you have one less thing to consider.

Campus Tours

Many students start visiting college campuses before their junior year. That’s great! Summer is the time to take that road trip and visit college campuses. The visits before senior year should be more purposeful. By this time, you should have a clearer idea of what you are looking for. If time and or money do not permit college visits to distant campuses, checking out local colleges and doing virtual tours is also useful. The aim is to start whittling down the list of colleges you will apply to.

Begin the College Application Process

Many colleges (and the Common APP) make their applications available on August 1st. Completing college applications can take a while as they are extensive. So, get a head start on the college application. One element that can be worked on is the college entrance essay. Although brief (650-word range), the essay is a key part of your college application as it’s an area where you can stand out. By completing a solid draft of your essay (you will want to review it with your guidance counselor) and getting started on your college application, you’ll have a leg up in the fall.

Other Considerations for College Planning in the Summer

Do community service or volunteer work, get a job (save money – you’ll need it!), and review next year’s classes.

Fall of Senior Year: Off to the Races

At the beginning of the school year, many students grumble about having to get back into the routine. However, most students are happy to see their friends again and are ready for structure. The fall of senior year is imperative for the college admissions process. It’s important to keep on top of things as there are registration deadlines that need to be met. Let’s look at some things high school seniors should be doing during this important time.

Visit the School Counselor

Meet with your counselor early in the school year as they can be a tremendous resource in the college application process – from recommendations, deadline reminders, and more. While meeting with them, go over your college entrance essay, get input on the colleges you’re considering, and review your high school transcript to ensure you are on track. Tell the counselor which colleges you want test scores, recommendations, transcripts, and applications sent to.

Financial Aid

The amount of financial aid you get can make the difference between you being able to afford your top choice and having to pass. On October 1, The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) becomes available. Fill it out as soon as possible. Complete the financial aid forms from the schools you are applying to. Financial aid can also come in the form of scholarships. Scour the internet, ask your guidance counselor, and talk to colleges about scholarship opportunities.

Early Application and Early Decision

If you are applying to a college for early application and or early decision, the deadline is typically November 1. To be ready to apply, you need to have fully completed your college application. Much of the information required is standard on all college applications. Even if you are not applying early, working on your college application is a must.

Other Considerations for College Planning in the Fall

Still not happy with your standardized test scores, you can take them again and still have the score in time to meet application deadlines. Complete your campus tours. Continue to involve yourself in extracurricular activities.

Winter of Senior Year: Knee-Deep in College Applications

During the winter, things typically move slower. People stay inside to escape the cold uncomfortable weather. High school seniors, you need to continue moving forward to the college application process. Let’s check our college planning timeline.

Completion of the Application Process

For those of you high school seniors who got admitted to an Early Decision program, your college application process is complete. You should withdraw all other applications.

Complete Your College Applications

For regular decision and Early Decision II, it’s crunch time with applications. Many colleges require applications to be handed in by January 1. Don’t wait till the deadline to submit. Besides the stress, this adds, that you may miss something that could be corrected or run into technical issues.

Financial Aid and Other Paperwork

Your FASFA forms should be sent after January 1. This is a priority because it determines how much you’re expected to pay for college. Understanding how much financial aid you can expect to receive can be the determining factor in which college you attend. Meet with your counselor to ensure your updated high school transcript is sent to the colleges you applied to. On that note, it’s important to maintain good grades and participation in extracurricular activities.

Demonstrate Interest

Reach out to the colleges you applied to and confirm they have all the information necessary for the college application. Besides giving you peace of mind, this also shows the colleges that you remain interested in attending. Consider visiting the schools’ websites, taking part in appropriate ways with school activities, and asking relevant questions to show you truly want to be part of the school. Demonstrating interest is a factor and can impact the final decision about your status.

Spring of the Senior Year: Culmination of the College Planning Process

Like much of the college planning process, the end is both exciting and nerve-wracking. For many high school students, the process began in 9the grade or even middle school. From plotting out what AP classes and honors courses to take to attending college fairs, to taking a virtual tour of a dorm room, leads up to the decision.

Acceptance Letters

Most colleges will notify you regarding acceptance or denial between early March and early April. Keep an eye on your email. Consider waiting to hear back from every college you applied to before deciding. The financial aid package can change your decision about what college you want to attend.

Financial Aid Awards

For many high school seniors, the federal financial aid package can make or break their college decisions. Yes, there are other financial aid opportunities, but the federal package tends to be the largest. By the spring, you will have received financial aid packages. They typically come with admission letters. Note, that the package is not uniform. So, you will need to compare the financial aid offer to determine the cost of attending college.

Final College Decision

After taking all the college advice planning, your college search is over! You need to determine which school you will attend. Most colleges require you to commit by May 1. Those colleges that you were accepted to but decide not to attend should be notified.

Other Considerations for College Planning in the Spring

Enjoy senior festivities and make the most of high school graduation!