You should maintain a somewhat rigorous schedule. Sometimes Seniors will decide that they have done what it takes to get into college, so they will choose a path of mostly electives so that they can relax their senior year. This is a common trap and mistake that students make. While your load doesn’t have to be as heavy as your junior year, there should still be some A.P. or Honors classes if possible. You should take a 4th year of math, Math Analysis or Calculus or Statistics. You should take a 4th year of Foreign Language if you have been successful at it or a 4th year of Science. Most of all, you MUST continue to get good grades! Remember, you haven’t been admitted to any colleges yet and in a situation where you are considered a borderline candidate, a university will look at your Fall semester grades as a determining factor. Those grades that were B’s and slipped to C’s because you got lazy will cost you your admission.
Besides your class schedule, you need to get started on your applications as soon as school begins. To begin with the application process for every university is different. Yes, many schools use something called the Common Application and yet individual schools will require a certain amount of essays or in some cases called supplemental requirements. Other universities use a form called the Coalition Application. Regardless of what application form is used, filling out applications can be time consuming, especially if you are also required to submit essays as well. Of course you want to do your best, so it is best for you to start as soon as possible.
Another thing that you’ll probably have to figure out is who is going to write your letter of recommendation. Most universities want a letter from an academic teacher who can speak to your academic abilities and potential. They also want to know about you as a person and what type of character you demonstrate in class or on campus. This can be a very tricky situation for some students. First of all, the teacher that you ask should be a teacher that you: a) achieved a good grade with (A or B) b) have a positive relationship with and c) knows some things about you as a person.
If you ask a teacher to write you a letter and you were constantly talking in their class and had to be repeatedly told to stop then you probably won’t get that great of a letter. Often students don’t think about the impact of their behavior with teachers until later on when they need a favor or some help. There was a student a couple of years ago who couldn’t get a teacher to write her a letter of recommendation. The simple reason was that she had been quite rude in class and did not treat her teachers with a lot of respect. It wasn’t until she needed a letter from them and told no, that she realized how poorly she had treated them.
Once you figure out who you want to write your letter, ask them very nicely and be APPRECIATIVE of the fact that a teacher is taking the time out of their schedule to do this for you. Remember, teachers aren’t required to write letters and it is an extra thing for them to do on their personal time. A thank you note, letter or card after they have finished is often a great way to show teachers that you really appreciate them helping you. You also want to ask teachers the first or second week of school to give them plenty of time to get your letter done, because other students may ask them as well. Most of the early deadlines are in November, but understand that teachers plan out their schedules months in advance. You should also be sure to check in with them about your deadlines. Don’t expect a teacher to know your deadlines or follow up with you. This is for your future, so be responsible for making sure that everything gets done.
After you have completed your applications and mailed them off you basically have to just play the waiting game. Unless you choose to apply to a school for an Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA), you won’t hear from most schools until March. The Things to Know page will explain ED and EA. The only thing left for you to do is submit your financial aid form (FAFSA) by the deadline that is required by the state that you live in. This does require a lot of paperwork from your parents, so give them plenty of notice before it is due. The Financial Aid page will go into more details about this. When it comes to making your final decision, I will provide some advice on the Things to Know page.