If you're a senior in high school, you are likely in the home stretch of college applications. With the seasons changing and the holidays just around the corner, it might be easy to lose focus and get sidetracked -- but our checklist of what you need to do to complete those applications should help.
Get started on your application essay -- if you haven't already
If you haven't already started working on your application essay, now is the time. The college application essay is one of the most important ways recruiting personnel get to know you through your application, and the essay should intelligently convey your academic experience, goals, and why you would make a great member of their student body. Allow yourself plenty of time to write a few drafts and get feedback, with time left for revisions. The college application essay is definitely not something you want to put off until the last minute!
Take the SAT or the ACT now!
If you've already taken your standardized tests but are not happy with your scores, this semester is your last chance to take the SAT or ACT in time for next fall admission to the college or university of your choice. So don't waste any time -- sign up to take the SAT or ACT now, and get started on a preparation plan to make sure you optimize your study time -- and your score.
Request recommendation letters
Who do you have in mind to write your college application recommendation letters? Not sure yet? Now is the time to get that nailed down. Decide which mentors, teachers, employers, clergy members, or other community leaders know you well and would happily write a great recommendation letter for you, and make sure you ask them soon -- you want to make sure they have plenty of time to write a thoughtful letter. And once they do, be sure to follow up with a thank you note to express your gratitude. Relationship building is a great skill to learn now and carry into your college career!
Be sure to request that your official high school transcripts be sent to all colleges you are applying to, or include them with your application, depending on the school's preference. Be sure to read the application materials carefully to determine how each school prefers to receive transcripts -- either with your application, or sent directly from your high school.
Stay on top of your grades
Just because you are in the home stretch of high school and senioritis has started to set in does not mean that you can slack off or relax too much when it comes to academics. Your full academic record is important to the colleges and universities you are applying to, and a significant dropoff in academic performance in your senior year will not be viewed kindly by your target schools.
You've likely already started visiting college campuses that you are interested in, and this fall and early winter are a good time to finish those visits. If you have any remaining campuses on your list, try to arrange a visit before the university goes on its holiday break in December, and be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to speak with an admissions counselor while there.
Finalize college applications
Be sure to closely check all of your college applications to make sure you are targeting the correct deadline to get all your application materials in on time. Proofread everything and then proofread it again. Have a friend, parent, or mentor also take a look to make sure you haven't forgotten anything. A second set of trusted eyes is a great asset right now. Check and double check the entire application checklist that came with your application materials.
Confirm receipt of college applications
Within a few weeks of your application materials being sent, you should receive a postcard or email notice confirming receipt or your materials, and requesting any additional or missing information. Be sure to respond promptly to any requests for additional materials, and contact the admissions office to confirm receipt if you receive not notice in about two weeks.