Review your course loadEven though your high school career is three-quarters complete, you still have a year to make improvements or achieve unfinished goals. Meet with your school counselor to make sure you’ve met or are scheduled to meet all your graduation and college preparation requirements, and take an honest look at your performance to see if there are any areas you need to improve. If you’re on track and pleased with your grades, look into taking AP or college courses to get ahead, arrange an internship, or join some extracurriculars that would round out your experience.
Prepare for the admissions processSenior year can wind up being busier than expected because of the college admissions process. Stay on top of tasks by noting application deadlines for your schools of choice, as well as FAFSA and scholarship deadlines. It’s also a good time to begin thinking about who you can ask for letters of recommendation. If you’re not sure, begin making efforts to connect with teachers you like over the school year so that you’ll feel comfortable asking later. Volunteering in classrooms, joining a club that they run, or even just participating frequently in class and asking questions can all help you get to know your teachers better — and vice versa. You’ll also want to think about more direct admissions tasks, like the personal essay and standardized tests. You can take a little time to review the Universal College Application essay prompts, as well as specific prompts for the colleges you’ll be applying to, and jot down topic ideas over the next couple of weeks. If you haven’t taken the SAT or ACT, or if you want to improve your score(s), the fall tests may be the last opportunity to take them while leaving yourself enough time to send scores to colleges.
Start thinking about financesYou’ll also need to start thinking about how you plan to pay for college. Talk with your parents and ask them to help you fill out the FAFSA. Make sure you’re aware of the deadline: they’re different for each state. Fall is the perfect time to start looking for scholarships you might qualify for. Keep an eye out for opportunities for first-generation college-goers or minorities, local scholarships granted by your school, city, or state, or scholarships specific to athletes, intended major, or people of a certain faith. You may find you’d like to start saving up for spending money or to help contribute to tuition. Part-time jobs don’t need to be solely about making money, however; see if you can find something related to your intended area of study or that helps round out your extracurriculars. If you’re already working, look around for other opportunities or try to work toward a promotion. The right job experience might help land you a work-study situation or help buoy your college application, and you’ll also have supervisors that could potentially write recommendations.
Hilary Gan is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.