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A Back-to-School Checklist for Incoming High School Seniors

Jul 20th, 2015 | College Preparation, Test Prep Classes

If you’re like any typical high school student, you probably caught a bit of “senioritis” as soon as the graduating seniors left on their last day. While your senior year can be a fun and formative time in your life, there are a few significant hurdles you need to clear if you’re planning to attend college the following year. Don’t take things easy, either – you’ll kick yourself for slacking behind and stressing deadlines, so allowing yourself some breathing room can be greatly beneficial.

Task #1: Prepare for Standardized Tests

If you didn’t already take the SAT/ACT as a junior or think you should retake either exam, it’s best to get that out of the way early so college applications won’t be delayed.  If you have early application deadlines (ACT, SAT or SAT Subject Tests), you’ll most likely need to complete your testing by October.  For later deadlines, you’ll need to take or retake your SAT or ACT by December.

Task #2: Attend College Visits

While you may already be doing this, make sure to schedule some time with parents or friends to go on college visits to those schools you may not have seen yet, but may be interested in attending.  While you’re at the schools, it’s important to attend an Information Session and/or to meet with the Admissions Representative who’s responsible for students from the area where you live.  Tell the Rep about yourself and try to figure out if the school will be a “Good Fit” for you.  Discuss issues such as your potential focus or major, and opportunities for research or other activities that may interest you, including Study Abroad, sports, clubs and living arrangements.  Don’t worry if you haven’t quite made up your mind about your major yet – part of visiting is familiarizing yourself with different schools and programs, so don’t sweat it too much. If possible, try to sit in on classes at each school you tour, and make sure to have lunch or dinner nearby each school so you can get a feel not only for the taste of the food, but for the “flavor” of the atmosphere and attitude of the students who attend each college or university.  It’s also helpful to set up meetings with faculty with whom you might be working/studying, as well as representatives from any clubs or campus organizations you’re thinking of joining.

Task #3: Start Thinking about Financial Aid and Scholarships

For either Need-based aid or Merit aid, all colleges and universities require that students and parents fill out the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA.  The FAFSA for the next year is due in January 2016 for the State of Washington and funds are available until depletion, so now’s a good time to start talking about money with your parents or guardians.

Most private liberal arts colleges, as well as some public universities, also require students to fill out the CSS Profile.  This is another online Aid application that allows students to apply for scholarships – both need and merit aid – at over 400 colleges and universities.  It’s detailed and specific about each family’s financial issues, so it can be a helpful complement to the FAFSA when your actual “need” doesn’t match the FAFSA’s definition of need.

Task #4: Start or Continue Working on your College Essays

First semester grades matter!  It will be a lot easier to get good grades if you don’t have to stress out about your college application essays.  Your life will be much simpler if you have at least a draft of your main college essay completed before Senior Year begins.  Since the essays are a very important part of your application, it’s beneficial to try to perfect them as much as possible.  You want to convey information about yourself that is not apparent from the rest of your application.

If you spend part of your remaining summer working on college essays, touring any schools that have students attending over the summer, and preparing for your final SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Tests, you’ll have a great head start to your final year of high school.

If you’re feeling stressed about the ACT or SAT exam, consider investing (both time and money) in an individual tutor or a group class to help you prepare. Sandweiss Test Prep prides itself on helping students at all levels achieve their academic goals.  We have tutors available to match your scheduling needs.  We also have group standardized test preparation courses beginning Thursday, July 23rd for the ACT exam in Seattle and an available course for the SAT beginning Wednesday, July 29th. .  We also have college counselors to help you with essays or other admissions issues.   Contact us today for more information regarding either test preparation or your college goals.

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