Senior Year: What to Expect

It is true that junior year grades are paramount, but colleges do consider senior year transcripts. Work hard and continue to prepare, because this fall will be the busiest yet. Colleges want to admit individuals who are committed, engaged, and exuberant participants in life. 

Balancing standardized tests, athletic events, activities, jobs, family and friends is now the priority. As you approach the finish line, consider these ideas. 

Keep Your Grades Strong 

Second-semester senior grades are part of the final transcript sent to your college choice. Stay academically strong. If you fall below the academic profile (GPA) for the school that accepted you, you may be reevaluated. Senioritis may result in your being moved from admitted to waitlist status. In addition, your second-semester grades could be important in your movement from a waitlist to an acceptance.

Continue College Research 

The fall of senior year may involve more travel and preparation as some schools require an interview. Will you be interviewing on campus, via Skype/Zoom, or with a local alum? With the admissions staff or with a current student? Be very clear on the expectations of the colleges on your list. 

Consider Testing Requirements 

If you are testing in the fall of your senior year, think carefully about your testing strategy. Review your college list and be clear about the testing requirements of each school. Are they test-optional, or do they require the SAT or ACT ? Should you take the writing section or look into SAT Subject Tests? Does your engineering program require Math Level 2, Physics, or Chemistry subject tests? 

By taking the tests at the beginning of the fall, you will have time to apply Early Decision and/or Early Action. Remember, early applications require early planning. Check the websites of your colleges to determine the last accepted test date for applications. Be sure to arrange to have your scores sent from the testing organization. 

Colleges may be test-optional. Consult for a list of which schools are indeed test-optional. Be aware that some financial aid applications will require test scores. As always, be clear on the testing requirements and options for each of the schools on your list. 

Check Your Transcript 

Obtain a copy of your transcript from your high school registrar and confirm that your grades are correct and your transcript is in order. Junior year is the most important year on your academic record, so be sure your transcript is accurate, current, and complete. This is the document that colleges will use to assess your academic performance.

Look closer. Have you displayed an upward trend that should be discussed? Is there an anomaly that needs context and warrants an explanation in the “Additional Information” section of the application? 

Know Your Deadlines 

Narrowing the choice to attend one particular school may be an obvious path for some students. These students can submit an Early Decision (ED) application in the fall and receive an early response. This is a binding agreement that requires attendance if accepted. 

For many students, the college process requires a more expansive application strategy. Check the school website for specific information related to the early decision program.

Study the options offered by the schools on your list. Be clear on each deadline, and your personal application strategy. Take note that even within one college, there may be different deadlines for different programs.

Submit Applications

Does the school accept The Common ApplicationThe Coalition for AccessAffordabilityand Success Application, or only a school-specific application? Preparing your applications takes careful thought and planning. Begin by reviewing the instructions for each school on your list. Make sure there are no errors, typos, or omissions on your application. Proofread carefully. 

Keep in mind that there is a strategic process to the application narrative. This is an area critical to a student’s application. It is wise to consult with an educational planner to best approach issues, such as school changes and disciplinary issues, so the information is revealed holistically. 

Check that your colleges have received your complete application. Be sure to monitor all communication, including personal email and application portals. Manage your usernames and passwords with finesse by keeping a list. 

Review Financial Aid Awards 

Check with each college for specific financial aid application requirements. Dates and forms may vary. Considering financial aid packages or merit scholarships takes time. Keep an eye on the details. 

Count Admission Notifications 

Check the outcome in March and April (unless you applied early). Were you accepted? Congratulations! Flat out rejected? Move on. Receive a different response, such as spring start or waitlist? Consult with your educational planner on your options. 

As you evaluate outcomes, revisit your priorities, and review your current school options to determine your first choice from your admitted results. If applicable, research your chances of being moved from the waitlist to admittance. Read the entire acceptance or denial letter. Be clear on the specific agreement into which you may be entering. 

Keep in mind that schools may take all summer until August 1 — to make a decision about the wait list. This is the time to engage your best decision-making skills. Then, if your number does come up and you are offered a spot, you can confidently notify the college of your decision. 

Choose Your College 

Finally, it is time to decide. Engage the decision-making skills you have cultivated over the last four years. Revisit your priorities, and review your current school options to determine your first choiceTry to visit or even revisit the colleges where you have been accepted. Talk with alumni. Attend an accepted-student reception. Then confidently make your college choice official by sending in your deposit. You have until May 1, National College Decision Day, to notify the school of your decision. 

You are nearing the end of your high school journey, so now is the time for you to enjoy the anticipation of a great achievement — your high school graduation. You have come a long way and should be proud of what you have accomplished. 

Graduation is a time for looking back and looking ahead. Your world will expand and the independence of college life will introduce a new network of friends, professors, and advisors. Interdependence becomes key as you develop new relationships, while keeping ties with your current friends and family. Move forward with confidence and enjoy a bright future. 

Originally published October 10, 2017

Educational planning