Student News

October Checklist for High School Seniors

Focus on college admissions tasks this Oct. and you'll eliminate any stressful hocus pocus.

Shawna Newman

September 30, 2021

Seniors have 12 tasks to undertake this October. Doing so will help to keep your final year of high school productive.
October Checklist for High School Seniors
It’s hard to believe it, but the first semester of your senior year is underway. Now that you’re settled in your senior year classes (in the classroom or virtually), it’s time to really start focusing on both the college admissions process. While it may seem daunting, it’s much more manageable once broken down into a task list. This year, take the time at the beginning of each month to evaluate what you can do to continue your focus on your college applications. Here’s what high school seniors should do throughout the month of October in terms of the college planning and admissions processes:
  1. Focus on Your Grades

  2. Although your grades will no longer significantly impact your grade point average, that does not mean you should stop trying. Your grades still matter in terms of college admissions! College admissions officers will definitely want to see you senior year grades and you will need to keep those grades up to remain admitted to whichever school you decide upon. Showing continual improvement will also boost your chances of admission into your top school choices.
  3. Fill Out the FAFSA

  4. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA, is released on October 1st of every year. Discover Fastweb's FAFSA headquarters to help you learn more and to find everything you need to fill out yours. You can also visit the Federal Student Aid website for more FAFSA information.
  5. Note ACT/SAT Adjustments

  6. You may be taking the SAT or ACT. Remember to check up on the latest testing information. For example, is your test center up and running? Do you meet the COVID-19 requirements to test? Find the updated test taking requirements and the tentative test dates here.
    Remember, if testing is not available in your area or you don't meet the safety requirements, consider that many schools have gone test optional.
  7. Start Narrowing Your College List

  8. While it’s easy to place this on your general “things to do” list, it’s vital that you actually do it. Make it a thing by scheduling time on your calendar to research schools. As this former high school counselor mentions in a National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) blog post, “Do you want or need to be closer to home? There are likely colleges within a drive of a few hours that may not have popped up on your radar before. Have your family finances changed? Look beyond the bumper sticker schools for those that meet your needs. With this time set aside, you should eventually narrow down your list to somewhere between six and eight colleges that vary in difficulty of admissions (your “safety,” “match,” and “reach” schools). Here’s the breakdown of the school categories: Safety: The school you are almost positive, based on admissions criteria, you will be admitted to because your academic credentials are well above the average incoming freshman’s range. You do not plan on attending this school; rather, it is seen as your back-up. However, you should feel comfortable attending this college, should you need to. At this school, you will most likely fall at the top of the class. Match: The school you are quite likely, based on admissions criteria, be admitted to because your academic credentials are well within the average incoming freshman’s range. This is the college you are most likely to attend. At this school, you will fall within the mid-range of the class. Reach: This school is called a reach school because it’s possible, but not guaranteed. Your reach school shouldn't be a pipe dream; it should be somewhat within reason (for example, if you have a 2.5 GPA and are applying to Georgetown, it’s not a reach school – it’s a dream school). Your academic credentials usually fall below the average incoming freshman’s range.
  9. Consider if Early Admission is for You

  10. Have you considered early decision, early action or rolling admissions yet? If not, it’s time to start thinking about it, deciding and applying now. It’s important to be aware that some of the decisions can be binding, such as early decision. You want to be certain that, when applying early decision, you’re ABSOLUTELY SURE you’ll want to attend this college if admitted. Early Decision Admission is contractually binding. There are plenty of pros and cons to early admissions, which you should evaluate before pursuing these routes. If you do decide that early admissions options are right for you, it’s time to work on your early applications. Many deadlines fall between October and November, so now is the time to focus on finishing up your early applications for submission.
  11. Obtain Letters of Recommendation

  12. If you have not already obtained letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches and other important people in your life to include with your college applications, reach out and ask as soon as possible. The more notice you give, the better. A letter of recommendation can speak to your character as a student, and though it isn’t always required, is an asset. If you’ve been working on your brag sheet, email this to your teachers you’ve asked for a recommendation letter. This will make things so much easier for them!
  13. Start Finalizing Your College Essays

  14. While some of your college application essay prompts may differ, many of them will be quite similar. It’s important that you perfect your essays by proofreading them through the editing process. Also, take the time to ask others to read them. Extra sets of eyes on your writing can make all the difference in the world, especially on a body of writing you have been working so closely with.
  15. Request Application Fee Waivers Through Your Counselor

  16. Many colleges waive application fees for qualifying students. If you’d like to have your application fees waived, speak with your school counselor sooner rather than later so that the inquiry won’t slow down your application submission process.
  17. Fill Out the Common Application

  18. Set aside time to fill out the Common App thoroughly. Many colleges use the Common Application in place of an individualized school application, so filling out the Common App will save you a lot of time and effort. Bonus: it’s free! (Some schools do require a fee in association with the Common App; however, fee waivers are available to qualifying students. Last year, the Common App included a place for you to note how COVID-19 has impacted you/your family. This was an optional portion of the application. They will again be offering students the chance to explain or discuss how they, their family, or community were impacted by Coronavirus. Remember, if you’d like to address the pandemic save it for this portion. Use your personal essay to showcase your achievements and goals—not COVID-related hurdles (there’s a place for that).
  19. Gather Any Required Documents

  20. As you’re researching the colleges you’re thinking of applying to and finalizing your list, note what each college requires in terms of documentation for the application process. Gather all of the necessary materials ahead of time in order to make your application process as smooth as possible by having everything you need accessible. Consider using a notebook to keep your documents extra organized!
  21. Double Check Your Transcripts

  22. Before your school submits your transcripts to any college, you want to make sure they are, in fact, your transcripts. You also want to ensure that all of your credits appear and that they are accurate. Don’t assume that everything is correct – administration errors happen more often than you may think! You don’t want a clerical error to stand in the way of your future – or admission to the school of your dreams.
  23. Apply For Scholarships

  24. As always, it’s important to stay focused on your scholarship applications. College is right around the corner—scholarship money will certainly come in handy and help you avoid unnecessary student loan debt. Bookmark this list ofScholarships for the Class of 2022. Make it plan to apply for at least one scholarship per week. If you can swing more applications, do it!

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