The College Search: Fall Tips for High School Seniors

Oct 11, 2010

It's fall: Time to go back to school, watch some football, eat pumpkin pie and, for high school seniors across the country, apply to colleges. Don't miss these important tips for staying on track in the college admissions process.

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Back to School Season

'College applications? But it's only October!' Don't let the autumn pass you by - many schools have deadlines before the end of the year. Get started now to make sure that you have a smooth college admissions process and a great senior year.

1. Finalize Your List

Now's the time for you to narrow that prospective college list down to the schools to which you're really going to apply. A few tips: Keep your list reasonable. While it's better to apply to more schools to increase your chances, remember that each school comes with application fees, essays and a lot of other time-consuming tasks. Also, don't forget to include at least one dream school and at least one fallback school.

2. Create a Calendar

Your college admissions calendar should include two things: Absolute deadlines (those set by the organization or institution) and personal deadlines. Set your personal deadlines at least a week before the absolute deadlines and you'll leave yourself crucial extra time to tackle unforeseen issues. When you're filling in your calendar, remember to include test registration deadlines, main application deadlines and financial deadlines, as well as extra personal deadlines for things like essays. This is also a good time to decide if you're excited enough about any one school to apply early decision.

3. Retake That Test

Not happy with your previous SAT or ACT score? You have one more chance to take each test before the end of the year. Visit the ACT and SAT websites now to get registered for the December test dates.

College Applications

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Sciences
  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

4. Request Recommendations

One of the most important things to remember when asking someone for a letter of recommendation is to give her or him plenty of time. Make a list of potential letter writers (focus on teachers, college counselors and, if you have a job, supervisors) and start asking them now. Not sure how to approach someone for a recommendation? Check out these tips on asking for a job recommendation - they apply to college letters too.

5. Start Those Essays

The personal essay is one of the most important parts of the college application process. It's your chance to show the admissions office that you're more than just test scores and a grade point average. Because so much rests on your essay, it's important to get started early and give yourself plenty of time to edit and revise. Also, many colleges have started accepting multimedia essay supplements such as admissions videos. Find out which schools on your list accept them and decide now if you're going to create one. If so, be sure to budget extra time, as these projects are often very time consuming.

6. Stay Focused

With the excitement of college admissions and your final year in high school, it's easy to fall prey to 'senioritis,' or the temptation to let your schoolwork slack. Don't do it! Most colleges will reserve the right to reverse applications decisions based on your final transcript. And you will be a lot more prepared for college-level courses if you work hard through your final year in high school.

Good luck, and have fun!

Seniors: Have college admissions questions? Tweet them @Studydotcom for answers!

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