You made it. You should feel proud of reaching this point! There’s still critical work to be done before graduation, so it’s important to stay focused.
Meet with your school counselor at the beginning of the year so you can adjust your course schedule and register for additional standardized tests, if necessary. Continue to meet throughout your senior year to check in on your college application progress. Be proactive about these meetings. Don’t wait for your counselor to reach out to you.
Don’t have a counselor? You have more resources available to you than you probably realize. Talk with your teachers, school administrators, coaches or assistant principals. You can even contact college admission officers. All of these people would be happy to help you think about your future. All you have to do is ask!
It’s time to complete your research and decide on the final list of schools you’ll be applying to. Work with your school counselor to ensure you have a list that excites you, meets your needs, and matches your academic credentials.
If you have a first choice college, discuss the possibility of applying Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA). Just make sure that you’d be happy to attend each and every college on your list (not just your ED or EA choice).
Remember: The College Board and the ACT both offer exam fee waivers for eligible students. If you’re concerned registration fees might impose a financial burden on your family, talk to your school counselor about a fee waiver.
Use your college applications to showcase your strengths and tell your personal story. To do this well will take time, effort, and careful attention to detail, so be mindful of deadlines and avoid waiting until the last minute.
Touch base with your school counselor and teachers to make sure everything gets to each college you apply to, including your official high school transcript and letters of recommendation.
Pro tip: Consult the Recommenders and FERPA section in your Common App account to monitor when your transcript and letters of recommendation have been submitted to each college.
Your FAFSA should be done as soon as possible beginning October 1. Some colleges will also ask you to complete the CSS Profile. Consult the Financial Aid Resources tab in your Common App. Pay careful attention to specific financial aid deadlines and requirements for individual colleges so you don’t miss out on any money you are eligible for.
Pro tip: Don't forget about scholarships! Also within the Financial Aid Resources tab in your Common App account you can connect with Scholar Snapp, a free service from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation that helps you apply to hundreds of scholarships around the country. Qualified applicants can even apply directly for The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's Cooke College Scholarship Program using Common App.
This is the most exciting part! Take time to review your admission offers and compare financial aid packages. Most colleges offer special admitted students programs designed to help you make your decision, so visit your top choice schools, if possible. Your parents and school counselor can also help you with this decision-making process.
When you have made your decision, you will need to notify the college you choose of your commitment and submit a financial deposit by May 1st. You cannot submit a deposit to more than one school. You will also need to notify the colleges that you do not plan to attend of your decision. This is an important step in helping to open up seats for other students who may be on a waitlist for those schools.
Even after you complete your applications and receive admission offers, your entire year of grades still counts. Some colleges require midyear grades to be sent, and the college you choose to attend will receive your final high school transcript at the end of the year. College acceptances are contingent upon successful completion of your coursework, and a noticeable slip in academic performance could alter your scholarship eligibility or offer of admission.
Congratulate yourself on making it to the finish line. You are on your way! You are ready for college, and college is ready for you. Don’t forget to thank your parents, counselors, teachers, and mentors for helping you reach this milestone. And remember - those same adults are there to cheer you on and offer support as you continue on your journey.