Are you new to the life of a high school senior? Here at Fresh U, we understand. We’ve all been in your shoes and we are here to help.
As a high school senior looking to attend college after graduation, your entire school year will be consumed with college. The nine stages of being a high school senior are things all students should expect, and I am here to offer the advice and wisdom as high school alumna (and an almost college freshman)!
1. Building Your List of Colleges
First and foremost, you need to research prospective colleges that satisfy your requirements and preferences (i.e. major, location, size, religious affiliation, etc.). Utilize CollegeBoard, Google, college fairs, guidance counselors and other sources to learn about colleges that could be your perfect fit.
Advice: Do as much research as possible the summer before/of your senior year, if not earlier, to compile a list of any and every college that you like. Then, follow-up with a more in-depth research to narrow your list to your top target schools that you intend to tour and apply to. Also, stay organized with a spreadsheet that lists the school’s location, tuition, SAT requirements, application deadlines and other important information to avoid constantly searching back and forth.
What to Expect: Be warned, this is a long and tedious process. This step is difficult because it really requires great introspection on who you want to be and where you want to become this person— something that you can’t find on google. This step can also become repetitive, as every college begins to look the same, until you find the one (or more) that sticks out above the others. For me at least, although a chore at the time, this step was the easiest and the most fun because it was the first time I felt the reality that I was indeed planning my future and going to college.
For more advice on this topic, check out this Fresh U article by Emily Tillet.
SATs are the nightmare that you’ve been dreading since freshman year. This one standardized test is what schools see when they analyze your application to determine if you are, for lack of a better phrase, on their level. In 2018, many schools are offering the option to substitute your SAT scores with supplemental essays. However, if you do not have that luxury, then buckle in.
Advice: Study. The best advice I can give for anything is to be prepared. Do not wait until the last month or minute to study. Spend the entire year in preparation. Khan Academy provides free study tools, practice tests and skill assessments through the College Board, which I highly advise you take advantage of. Use whatever practice tools you can to help you study.
What to expect: The test itself is quite simple— not necessarily easy, but simple. You might even find yourself saying, “That wasn’t as bad as I expected,” after taking the test. However, the pressure of building the test up in your head and knowing the importance of your test score will make you anxious. Following the test, the anxiety only builds as you wait the weeks before your score is revealed. Be prepared for months of anxious preparation and weeks of a torturous waiting game.
3. College Tours
Envision yourself standing on a campus green or in a dorm room— get excited because that will be you in a year. College tours are the best time to see a campus beyond the online photos, ask questions, meet people, eat the food and just enjoy the prospects.
Advice: Ask questions! This is one of the few times that you will have the attention of so many people willing to help you. Tour guides, admissions counselors, employees and students are all more than willing to answer your questions and help you make this important decision, so don’t be afraid to speak up.
What to expect: Get ready for long travels, early mornings and hours of walking. Tours are a great time for you to visualize yourself on a college campus, which makes it an extremely exciting time. However, tours can be very boring and repetitive as campuses, for the most part, all look the same and guides typically spew information that you’ve already read online. Nevertheless, it’s a great time to see the things you don’t fully experience online, such as dorms, dining and the walks between buildings.
For more advice on this topic, check out this Fresh U article by yours truly.
4. College Applications
Personal essays, SAT scores and letters of recommendation are going to consume your late summer into the fall and possibly winter.
Advice: Start as soon as possible. The Common Application (Common App) posts their personal statement prompts mid-summer, and many schools follow suit by posting their personal questions or applications at that time. Start working on your application essays as soon as the Common App questions are available, and before you officially start your senior year.
My second piece of advice is to ask each school about applications waivers before you pay the fee. You might save a few hundred dollars. Lastly, ask for letters of recommendation many weeks in advance to give that person ample time to write an authentic recommendation for you.
What to Expect: In the sugariest way, this is the most awkward, frustrating and painstaking process. The biggest part of college applications are the personal and supplemental essays that ask questions like “Describe a concept, idea, or topic that you find engaging and makes you lose track of time,” and “If you were to write the story of your life, what would you title it and why?” These personal questions may sound easy, but remember that these people do not know you, so you must paint a picture of yourself because a simple, “Hello my name is...” does not let them know anything about you. Amid your portrait, you also must answer the awkward question, while also making a great statement of why they should want you in their school— all in 500-700 words. Nevertheless, you will not die from embarrassment or stress. We’ve all gone through it, and believe it or not, we survived (barely).
For more advice on this topic, check out this Fresh U article by Elizabeth Robinson.
5. Application Responses
If you thought applications were done and gone for good, you were wrong. The work might be done, but by January the only thing left to do is wait – wait for one letter, email or portal update that could make or break your plans for your future. Application responses are just as hard, if not harder than the actual application process.
Advice: Take a deep breath and relax. During this respite, you will probably be enjoying your first college free moment in months. Don’t let the inevitable stress and impatience that come with waiting control your next few weeks or months. Instead, relish in your accomplishments by looking back to see how far you’ve come. You’ve made it through most of high school, the first steps of the college process and your making plans for the future. If all that is not enough to be proud of, I don’t know what is.
In the event that you do not get your desired response, keep your head up. One response does not reflect every response, so don’t get discouraged.
What to expect: Prepare simply for an anxious wait to see how each school responds. I’d suggest you prepare for either response, and this way rejection hurts less. An acceptance can make you feel like Taylor Swift accepting her 3rd award for the night – you expected it, but it was still a grand surprise.
This Fresh U article by Jade Miller helps to sum up the process in a few hilarious GIFs.
6. Choosing A College
Eenie meenie, miney moe, where should you go? Are you ready to make one of the biggest decisions of your life so far? No pressure.
Advice: Do your research, but when it comes down to it, follow your heart. There’s not much advice I can give for this step because it truly all comes down to you at this point. Choose wisely because this could be your home and life for the next four years.
What to expect: Your experience for this step depends on your experience thus far: whether you had a top school and if you got accepted, scholarships, and personal influences.
Be prepared to make tough decisions. Do you really want to choose a school that far from home? Are you willing to make some sacrifices to attend the pricier school of your choices? However, in the end, the choice is all yours because it's your life. Take everything into consideration, but do not let anyone sway you from what you know is right for you.
7. College Enrollment
Now that you’ve chosen a college, its time to make it official. Go online, accept your admission offer and send in the first check of many with your enrollment deposit!
Advice: This step is very technical, so there isn’t much advice I can give except to prepare to be bombarded with enrollment fees, housing applications (and fees), meal plan fees and orientation fees.
What to expect: Have I mentioned fees? Aside from roughly $600 or more leaving your bank account, prepare to make more decisions! Once you enroll, you’ll be welcomed to the new graduating class and given a checklist of things to complete by deadlines, such as apply for housing, choose your meal plan and register for orientation. Nevertheless, your now officially a college bound student! You can begin announcing that you’ve chosen a school and buying merchandise to show off your new spirit.
8. College Preparation
Get ready! You’re on your way to becoming an official college student, but there are a few things you must do first. College preparation is mainly the checklist that schools give you before orientation or move-in, as well as personal things you need to do to get ready. This list can include going to the doctors to get required immunizations (and addition care or preparation if needed), accepting financial aid and student loans, applying for scholarships, taking placement exams and reading the school's chosen common reading.
Advice: Combine the school’s checklist with your own and make a schedule of how you will tackle each step in a timely manner. When you first see the list of things you must do, it might be overwhelming, but in all honesty, it's not as bad as it seems. You will make it through because after all, you’ve made it this far.
What to expect: This step is more fun than work. During this time, you can also join social media groups with your future classmates, meet people, make friends and just have some really fun conversations.
If I scared you with the mention of placement exams, they are simply the school’s way of finding out what level of core classes you belong in, such as math or foreign language. There is no pass or fail for these tests. A higher score can simply place you in class 102 over class 101. Either way, you will be fine, just prepare!
If I freaked you out about the common reading, that is just a small book that schools have you read and discuss with a group during orientation to acclimate you to college lectures and discussions. Easy peasy.
You made it! This is the end of the road, and your goodbye to high school. In just a few short hours, you will go from being a high school senior to a college bound adult. Put on your dancing shoes and cap and gown and get ready to celebrate.
Advice: Enjoy yourself. This time is about you to celebrate you and your achievements. Congratulations!
What to expect: It's all what you make it. Graduation can be a bittersweet experience, but just make sure you make it memorable and special for you.
So, there you have the nine stages of applying to college as a high school senior. It will be the best of times and the worst of times, but through thick and thin, you will get through each and every step and go on to live your dreams. Good luck, have fun and work hard!
Lead Image Credit: Unsplash