Senior Summer Checklist
The summer before your senior year is a phenomenal time to prepare for your final year of high school. Students generally do not think of utilizing their summer in this manner, but there are several good reasons to do so. First, summer inherently leaves more “free-time” than students typically have during an academic year. That “free-time” has the potential for giving students a more flexible schedule (even if you work part-time) that they might not otherwise have. That “free-time” presents a great opportunity to leisurely work on perfecting college and scholarship applications, as well as to continue with your all-important college planning.
In addition to several generous scholarship applications becoming open during the summer vacation, quite a few college application for admissions open. For example, the University of Kansas application for undergraduate admissions opened July 1st and there are others as well, including the University of Mississippi, Texas A & M, and Arizona State University, just to name a few.
Finally, senior year, while an exciting one, can be particularly busy and stressful for students. Using some of your summer schedule flexibility to begin some of the important tasks and to plan ahead will go a great way towards alleviating or reducing the level of stress you endure. Planning now will reap you great rewards in the fall! With that in mind, we have created the following helpful checklist to get you started:
- Create a “Senior Binder:” Invest in a binder or two (with pockets on the sides to hold information that won’t otherwise fit neatly into your binder) to house all of the information pertinent to your college planning. It’s a great way to easily contain all of the college information you will receive, and it will be a marvelous keepsake for your parents (and you) later. Every binder should contain a checklist that tracks your important deadlines, such as ACT and/or SAT registration deadlines and test dates, college application due dates, as well as financial aid deadlines.
- Develop a Plan: Having a comprehensive plan for applying to colleges and for scholarships is absolutely essential. If you wait until your senior year, things will be so hectic that you may find yourself making critical mistakes at a most important time. Know what colleges you plan to apply to and how much it will cost to do so. Do you need fee waivers to avoid those pesky application fees? Which ones do your schools accept? Applying to colleges can get rather expensive, but that certainly doesn’t have to be the case. This is also the perfect opportunity to find out what your prospective colleges require with your application, e.g., recommendations, transcripts (official/unofficial), etc. Also, planning at this stage whether you’re going to be applying early and under what circumstances, e.g., Early Action, Early Decision, etc., will allow for a reasoned thoughtful process.
- Keep a Running Dialogue with Your Parents: Both parents and students need to be in the same “loop,” which is unfortunately not typically the case. Make sure your parents know what schools you intend to apply to so that all concerned can prepare accordingly. Discuss your prospective majors/focus with them so that they can help guide you on the programs that best suit your career goals.
- Prepare for College Applications: Find out what application process your prospective college or university uses (e.g, Common Application, Black Common Application, ApplyTexas, or an institutional application (many schools accept more than one application type) and familiarize yourself with that process. If you’re planning on using the Common Application, the 2017-2018 Common Application basic essay prompts are already available, so you can begin the process of writing responsive essays during the summer months. Keep in mind, that any work you complete over the summer will mean less work during what is arguably your busiest high school year, so it really is advantageous to get as much out of the way as possible!
- Continue Your Extracurriculars And Community Service Activities: The summer before your senior year is no time to slouch when it comes to those all-important extracurriculars and community service opportunities. If anything, rising seniors should amp up their activities as much as is possible. Again, during the summer you have the benefit of a less hectic schedule making it that much easier to work these essential activities in.
- Update Your Resume/Student Credential: During the school year, it can be quite a challenge to update your resume, making summer a great time to do it. Go back and add extracurriculars and community service that you previously didn’t have time to add and add them now. If you need documentation, this is the time to request it when things have slowed down considerably. Trust us: You’ll be thankful you did later!
- Prepare requests for letters of recommendation: A great way to set yourself apart from your peers and distinguish yourself as studious is to know, in advance, which teachers and/or organizations you plan to request letters of recommendations from and start the process accordingly. Teachers love receiving requests for letters of recommendation early when they are not otherwise swamped during the school year. Don’t forget to include a resume/student credential since that gives the teacher an opportunity to discuss your activities in the letter of recommendation they prepare on your behalf.
- Begin Your Personal Statement: If you haven’t already, start the process of developing an essay about yourself. Most applications for admission either request them, or have a place where such information will become relevant. Use this as an opportunity to tell prospective colleges and universities what you’d like them to know about you that perhaps isn’t told in your academics. Consult your parents/guardians during this stage because they may remember things that you do not. Also, their input is typically a great staging point for thinking about yourself in a way you’re not use to.
- Map Out College Visits: Summer isn’t traditionally considered the best time to visit college campuses (most students/professors aren’t on campus), but you can wisely use the summer to map out a fall visit schedule to your future schools. The luxury of a more relaxed schedule over the summer will go a long way towards helping you plan a reasonable and doable schedule for those crucial visits, so don’t leave that off of your list!
- Create a Financial Plan: While you’re dialoguing with your parents, make sure you’ve both created a financial plan to help you make your college years affordable. Start by deciding whether you’ll use the FAFSA and, if so, what documents you’ll need. The FAFSA is now available in October, so a few short months after you start your senior year, the FAFSA will become available. Find out what you’re prospective school’s policy on the FAFSA and/or the College Board’s CSS Financial Aid PROFILE (which approximately 400 colleges and universities use) is and whether or not they require any other need-based applications. Most importantly, consider the FAFSA and the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE if applicable, as the starting point, rather than an end point for your need-based aid. There are additional avenues to help you make your dream school affordable! Hint: Check below!
- Scholarships! Scholarships! Scholarships!: Of course, we saved the best for last! How do you plan to pay for those enormously expensive schools you’ve selected? Summer, like any academic break, is a great time to search for and apply for scholarships! Contrary to popular belief, scholarships opportunities ARE available during the summer. As a consequence, smart scholars continue to look for scholarships during this break! Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, there are some scholarships for which you can ONLY apply for as a high school senior. Knowing those scholarships, in advance, will keep you from missing out on some incredibly generous monetary awards! Using the summer to research and prepare for these scholarships will help you avoid missing out on some much needed opportunities simply because you’re so overwhelmed!
We hope you’ll find this checklist a terrific guide for your summer college planning! Look for more tips and guidance throughout the summer!