If you are a high school senior, you’re probably pretty busy with school, your social life, and maybe even a job, so let’s not waste any time getting to the 10 things you absolutely need to know.
1. Colleges care about your senior year grades. In fact, most colleges reserve the right to rescind their offers of admission to students whose grades fall as seniors.
2. Colleges, especially highly selective ones, want to see you continue to challenge yourself during your senior year. Rather than schedule yourself lightly, as some students choose to do, why not take take 5 courses that will help prepare you for the increased academic rigor of college.
In fact, it’s a great idea for seniors to learn what is required to be successful in college, and at the same time earn college credit, by taking one or two AP or concurrent enrollment courses.
3. Even if you own a dog, your college counselor (if your school has one), your guidance counselor, and your career center director are your best friends. Individually, and/or as a team, they can help you learn more about careers, select appropriate courses, apply for financial aid, and navigate the college admissions process.
Students who don’t take advantage of the help, knowledge, and experience these educational professionals can offer them are making a big and potentially costly mistake.
4. Unless you are absolutely certain you have already earned the ACT or SAT scores you will need to be admitted to your target colleges, you should actively prepare for and retake one or both exams as a senior. Aside from improving your chances of being admitted to the colleges of your choice, higher test scores may help you qualify for more merit scholarship money.
5. Take at least one course that will require you to write creatively and/or write at least one serious research paper. Good writers have an easier time, often a far easier one, getting through college with grades which impress graduate school admissions committees and prospective employers. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to make yourself a good writer by the time you graduate from high school, even if it hurts.
6. Learn to take good notes. In fact, you may well take a few college courses that do not require good note taking skills, but you’ll be far more successful in most of your classes if you take good notes. In addition, good note taking skills are helpful in most careers, so start developing your skills as soon as possible.
7. Choose your references wisely. There is an actual case of a young woman with excellent grades and test scores at a competitive college who was denied admission to a doctoral program because one of the three or four letters of reference in her admissions file was written by her sister. Hard as it may be to fathom, that’s a true story.
Some students submit references from notable people and/or people they believe to be influential…politicians, CEO’s, authors, entertainers, etc. A substantive recommendation by a “notable” is fine, but a letter saying little more than the student is a good kid from a nice family could be a problem for some admissions committees. And, letters from more than one notable are not a good idea.
Be sure that those you choose to write reference letters on your behalf know you well enough to discuss your achievements, work ethic, and/or and character. At least one recommendation should come from a teacher.
8. You don’t have to decide on a college major now, and it’s pretty easy to change your major anytime during your first two years of college, so don’t stress about it. Even most people who ask you what you intend to major in don’t really expect a definitive answer.
Do not worry if you are undecided about a major. You have plenty of time.
9. Do not ever make the decision to attend a college you have not visited. Buy shoes without trying them on or buy a used car without the advice of a mechanic if you want to take a gamble, but never, under any circumstances, should you attend a college you haven’t first visited.
10. Do not ever rule out applying to a college or university because of its published costs. There are all sorts of scholarships and grants which may be available to help you. The educational professionals at your school will almost surely have a list of local scholarships, and websites like this one are a great source of scholarship information.