You’ve made it to your senior year of high school – congratulations are definitely in order! You are likely feeling a range of emotions like excitement and pride in how far you’ve come. But before you toss up your graduation cap and turn the tassel, you’ve got a busy and challenging year ahead.
It’s so easy to lose focus at this point and fall victim to senioritis. We get it! But senior year is an important year for your future, and you have many things to do before you can sit back and relax.
Heading into the year with an organized plan can keep your motivation high and help you succeed. That’s why we’ve created a checklist for your senior year of high school. This way, you’ll be sure to meet important deadlines and stay on top of your tasks. We promise, planning the perfect prom night is there too!
- Take a deep breath! Fall is going to be the busiest season of your senior year.
- Join a new club at school. This might not be your top priority at the moment, but it is a good idea to get involved in high school if you haven’t already. It’s a last chance to make an impression on colleges and you may even find a new hobby that you can continue in college.
- Retake Your SAT/ACT. If you aren’t satisfied with your previous score, take the test again and give it all you’ve got. It’s pretty common to take the tests a senior year. Note that some colleges are now test-optional or test-blind, so if you would prefer not to take the exam OR if you don’t feel you’ll be able to perform well, consider focusing on colleges that don’t require applicants to submit SAT/ACT scores.
- Apply early decision if you have a dream school. Remember, an early decision is binding, meaning you must attend the school if they accept you. Deadlines for early decisions are usually in November.
- Narrow down your college list to five to ten schools. Consider factors like college size, location, and cost to help guide your decision. If you’re struggling to narrow it down, meet with your guidance counselor for some assistance.
- Visit colleges you’re interested in. Most colleges offer organized visits to potential students. This is a great opportunity to go see the campus, experience the student life and ask any questions you may have.
- Keep up with your schoolwork. Your grades in senior year matter. It’s not time to start slacking off.
- Finalize your resume.
- Perfect your personal statements.
- Ask for letters of recommendation from teachers or a school counselor who knows you well. Don’t ask for recommendations at the last minute. Provide your recommenders with a list of your extracurricular activities and your academic records.
- Submit your college applications. Try and get your applications in before the start of your winter break. If you can’t afford the application fees, you can ask your school counselor to help you request a fee waiver.
- If you are submitting SAT/ACT scores or AP/IB/CLEP scores, you’ll need to log in to your accounts with those test providers and officially request that scores be sent to all of the colleges you are applying to.
- Find and apply for scholarships. You don’t need to be the top-ranked person of your class to win a scholarship. Scholarships award all types of students like those pursuing a STEM major or students who live in Indiana.
- Gather all the documents you need for your scholarship applications.
- Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To qualify for most financial aid, you need to fill out this form. Make sure you avoid making these mistakes when filling out the form.
- Complete the College Scholarship Service (CSS) profile. This is a requirement of many private schools to determine your financial aid. Check with the colleges where you are applying to see if you need to fill it out.
- Talk to your parents about financial aid. After filing the FAFSA, you’ll know your eligibility for financial aid. This is a good time to discuss college costs with your parents.
- Order your yearbook and class ring so you have something to cherish from high school.
- Say cheese! Get your senior pictures taken.
- After applying to colleges, check with them to see that they received your supplemental materials like test scores, letters of recommendation, and transcripts.
- Be sure to monitor your email, and review all emails you receive from the colleges you’ve applied to.
- Create portal accounts for each college, per the emails you’ll receive. This is critical because most colleges will communicate with you primarily through your portal.
- Work hard in your classes. Your GPA still matters!
- Monitor your college portal accounts – you might actually find out if you are accepted earlier than you expect. Also, check any open items on your “to-do list.”
- If you are finding that some schools are slow in updating their portals, call or email the admissions office to check to see if they need more materials from you.
- Consider retaking the ACT/SAT if you can still submit scores to the colleges you applied to.
- Complete any other college applications you may still have to submit.
- Save money by getting a part-time job. This is also a great way to gain experience.
- Continue looking for scholarships.
- Check your college portals and email daily, and keep an eye on your mailbox too! Colleges usually will make their admission decisions by the end of March, but it may happen much sooner than that depending on the school. Good luck!
- Meet with your school counselor to make sure you’re on track to graduate.
- Revisit colleges to help you make a decision.
- Compare financial aid options and choose a financial aid package that is right for you. Before accepting a package, make sure you understand what the requirements are to continue to receive the financial aid.
- Keep up the hard work in school, as tempting as it is to relax by now. This is especially important if you get waitlisted from college. Colleges will want to see how you’ve been performing.
- Prepare for your final exams or AP exams. AP exams can help you get advanced placement and earn you college credits.
- Continue with your part-time job to save money for your college expenses.
- Accept an admissions offer! Notify colleges by May 1.
- Let your school counselor know which admissions offer you’ve accepted.
- Waitlisted? Before losing hope, write a letter to the college’s admissions team and ask what you can do to improve your chances of getting accepted.
- Enroll in the college you accept and submit all required paperwork. This includes scheduling courses, signing up for orientation, and finding housing.
- Keep applying for scholarships.
- Send your final transcript to the college you will be attending.
- Get your cap and gown ready for graduation.
- Go to prom! You’ve seen it in all the movies, now it’s time to experience it yourself.
- Graduate high school and frame your diploma! You’ve made it through four years of high school and you’ve worked really hard to get here. You deserve to celebrate! Invite some family and friends and celebrate all that you’ve accomplished.
- Continue with your previous job or find a summer job to save money for college.
- Keep seeking out scholarship opportunities. There are plenty of scholarships that have deadlines only in July or August.
- Consider enrolling in a community college class to get a leg-up on your freshman year of college.
- If you’ll be moving to a dorm or apartment, start packing for your move.
- Spend time with family and friends during this special time as you prepare for the next step in your college journey!
You’ve made it to the homestretch! It would be a big shame to start slacking off now. Follow this checklist and avoid burnout.