Senior year is a busy and extremely important time in the college admissions process. This is your last chance to get the ACT and SAT scores you need, and senior year is when you have to narrow down your college options to the handful of schools to which you’ll apply. You’ll need to get your college essay up to snuff, line up your letters of recommendation, and apply for financial aid. During the application process, you'll need to keep active in extracurricular activities and maintain high grades.
August before Senior Year
- Register for the September ACT if appropriate (check ACT dates).
- Come up with a preliminary list of colleges that includes reach, match and safety schools.
- Explore the websites of the colleges that interest you to learn about admissions requirements.
- Check your senior year class schedule to make sure you're taking the English, Math, Social Science, Science, and Foreign Language classes you'll need for your top-choice colleges.
- Look over the Common Application and begin thinking about potential topics for your personal essay.
- Visit campuses and interview with college representatives if appropriate.
- Register for October or November SAT and SAT Subject exams (check SAT dates).
- Meet with your guidance counselor to discuss the colleges to which you're thinking of applying.
- Request letters of recommendation, especially if you are applying early.
- Continue to visit campuses and interview with college admissions representatives.
- Request applications from all the schools to which you might apply. Create an account with The Common Application if the colleges you've selcted use it.
- Create a chart of deadlines. Pay particular attention to early decision, early action, and preferred application deadlines.
- If appropriate, register for the October ACT exam.
- Work on your college essays.
- Try to assume a leadership position in an extracurricular activity.
- Work to strengthen your academic record.
- Take the SAT, SAT Subject exams, and/or ACT as appropriate.
- Continue to research schools to narrow your list to roughly 6 - 8 schools.
- Take advantage of college fairs and virtual tours.
- Complete your applications if you are applying early decision or early action.
- Research financial aid and scholarships. Do your parents' places of employment offer college scholarships for employee children?
- Get your college essay in shape. Get feedback on your writing from a guidance counselor and a teacher.
- Request your high school transcript and check it for accuracy.
- Keep track of all application components and deadlines: applications, test scores, letters of recommendation, and financial aid materials. An incomplete application will ruin your chances for admission.
- Register for the December SAT or ACT if appropriate.
- Take the November SAT if appropriate.
- Don't let your grades slide. It's easy to be distracted from school work when working on applications. Senior slump can be disastrous for your admissions chances.
- Make sure you've submitted all components of your applications if you are applying to colleges with November deadlines for early decision or preferred application.
- Put the final touches on your application essays, and get feedback on your essays from counselors and/or teachers.
- Continue to research scholarships.
December - January
- Complete your applications for regular admissions.
- Make sure you've had your test scores sent to all colleges that require them.
- Confirm that your letters of recommendation have been sent.
- Submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Financial Aid).
- If you are accepted to a school through early decision, be sure to follow directions carefully. Submit required forms, and notify the other schools to which you applied of your decision.
- Continue to focus on your grades and extracurricular involvement.
- Have midyear grades sent to colleges.
- Continue to keep track of all deadlines and application components.
- Continue to research scholarships. Apply for scholarships well in advance of deadlines.
February - March
- If you submitted the FAFSA, you should receive the Student Aid Report (SAR). Carefully look it over for accuracy. Errors can cost you thousands of dollars.
- Contact colleges that didn't send you a confirmation receipt for your application.
- Don't put off applying to schools with rolling admissions or late deadlines -- the available spaces can fill up.
- Talk to your school about registering for AP exams.
- Keep your grades high. Colleges can revoke offers of admission if your grades take a nosedive senior year.
- Some acceptance letters may arrive. Compare financial aid offers and visit campus before making a decision.
- Don't panic; many, many decisions are not mailed out until April.
- Continue applying for appropriate scholarships.
- Keep track of all acceptances, rejections, and waitlists.
- If waitlisted, learn more about waitlists and move ahead with other plans. You can always change your plans if you get off a waitlist.
- Keep your grades up.
- If you have ruled out any colleges that accepted you, notify them. This is a courtesy to other applicants, and it will help the colleges manage their waitlists and extend the correct number of acceptance letters.
- Go to accepted student open houses if offered.
- A couple circumstances may warrant an appeal of a college rejection
May - June
- Avoid senioritis! An acceptance letter doesn't mean you can stop working.
- Most schools have a deposit deadline of May 1st. Don't be late! If needed, you may be able to request an extension.
- Prepare for and take any appropriate AP exams. Most colleges offer course credit for high AP scores; this gives you more academic options when you get to college.
- Have your final transcripts sent to colleges.
- Send thank you letters to everyone who helped you in the application process. Let your mentors and recommenders know the results of your college search.
- Keep on top of procuring student loans. Notify your college if you receive any scholarships.
- Graduate. Congratulations!
July - August after Senior Year
- Read all mailings from your college carefully. Often important registration and housing material is sent in the summer.
- Register for your classes as soon as possible. Classes often fill, and registration is usually on a first-come, first-served basis.
- If you get your housing assignment, take advantage of the summer to get to know your roommate (email, facebook, the phone, etc). Figure out who will bring what. You don't need two TVs and two microwaves in your tiny room.
- Off to college! Visit Kelci Lynn, About.com's expert on College Life