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September College-Prep Checklist for Seniors in High School

College admissions continue to be impacted by COVID: what you need to know.

Shawna Newman

August 30, 2021

Class of 2022: Eight things you should focus on in September to help you plan for college.
September College-Prep Checklist for Seniors in High School
Summer is over and a new semester has arrived. This is the year you’ll finally be graduating: Class of 2022! You’ll be applying to colleges; and soon enough, heading off to college. Keep in mind you’ll need to be flexible this year, prepared to pivot due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In light of that, here are some suggestions of what high school seniors can do to prepare for college admissions this September:

  1. Narrow down your college list.
  2. Start by creating a list of what you’re looking for in a college, and then jot down which colleges fit that criteria. Order your colleges list based on which schools meet the most criteria down to those that meet the lowest.

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  3. Register to take or re-take the SAT/ACT exams.
  4. If you haven’t heard, many colleges have gone test optional due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In fact, according to FairTest, approximately 1,350 colleges are not requiring SAT/ACT test scores for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. Use your top colleges list and do a bit of research to see if they have put a pause on requiring test scores for the admissions process. Consider this, as you’re deciding whether or not to test or re-test.

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    If you’re a strong tester, having high scores may help you land institutional scholarships. If you’re a stronger student in other areas, you may want to reconsider taking the SAT/ACT or decide to take fewer retests (there’s a fee each time you take a test). Finding a test center to take your standardized exam is also not as easy as it once was. However, the ACT is also offering an online test now.

  5. Schedule as many college virtual visits as possible.
  6. Campuses are so beautiful in the fall, so there really isn’t a better time to look. Schedule campus tours throughout the next few months and be sure to make it official by putting the dates into your Google calendar and inviting those you’d like to join you.

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    Many colleges are still offering virtual tours. If you can’t physically make it to a campus, you can still check out the grounds from the comfort of your own home.

  7. Start out - and stay in - great academic shape.
  8. As you're working on college applications, you’ll want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward – academically speaking. Make a strategy on how you’ll approach this semester and follow it. Your high school grades matter and a slip up is really difficult to recover from, especially in terms of your cumulative grade point average. It's not impossible to recover from a slump, but why give yourself the extra anxiety? Remember, even after you’ve been admitted, colleges are able to rescind your admissions offer if your grades fall too much.

  9. Evaluate how you’ll pay for school.
  10. While it’s a great investment, college is not cheap. Financial aid should be top-of-mind for high school seniors, even in September! You can start by gathering the items you’ll need to file your FAFSA. The 2022-2023 FAFSA opens up in less than a month! Try to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible, as this can impact the amount of federal financial you receive. Your state also has a FAFSA deadline, so stay on top of their requirements in order to qualify for state financial aid as well. If you start applying for scholarships now, it will be a lot easier to pay for school later! You’re expected to pay back any student debt or student loans you take on in college. But the awesome news is that you don’t have to pay back scholarships! Begin by organizing your scholarship search, then apply for as many scholarships as possible. Applying for scholarships your senior year will give you a HUGE head start.

  11. Gather and prepare your application materials.
  12. It’s helpful to have any documents you may need on hand for your college applications, like your ACT/SAT scores, personal information, and any payment information if you’re not applying via the Common Application. That way, you won’t have to worry about gathering your materials each time you want to submit an application – everything will be in one place.

  13. Begin your college essays.
  14. If you know which schools you’re applying to, you can check out their essays and start brainstorming topics you’d like to write on. Try organizing your thoughts in an outline or diagram and go from there.

  15. Question if early admissions options are right for you.
If you already know which college is right for you, you may want to consider an early admissions option. It’s not right for everyone, but it may be worth it if you have your heart set on a specific school. Early Decision deadlines are binding commitments; if you’re accepted, you must attend that college. You may be asked to withdraw applications elsewhere and to submit your deposit before May 1. Early Action deadlines simply allow you to submit your application earlier, which means you’ll get your admission decision earlier as well. You can learn more about early admissions and decide if it’s the right route for you.

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