Welcome to your last semester of high school! Hopefully, you’ve completed the majority of your college admission applications at this point and can finally breathe a small sigh of relief. Just don’t relax for too long because you still have plenty on your plate over the next few months! January is notoriously known as the beginning of senioritis, and it can derail all your hard work if you’re not careful, so it’s best to have a plan in place to conquer those twangs of laziness before they surface. To help you stay on course, I’ve put together this handy list of spring tasks you should consider completing before sprinting across the graduation stage later this year.
Encourage your parents to complete their taxes as soon as possible, as this will expedite the processing of your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Most colleges require this form to be completed in order to determine your eligibility for federal, state, and institutional financial aid. Even if you think your family’s income may be too high, it never hurts to complete the form. Within three weeks of submitting your FAFSA, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). Be sure to review it and submit any required corrections as soon as possible.
Many colleges will also require you to submit a separate financial aid application in order to establish your eligibility for institutional scholarships and grants. Be sure to check with the colleges on your list to ensure you have filled out and submitted all required documentation before the published deadlines. Failing to submit all materials on time may result in the loss of available financial aid.
Contact the colleges where you applied for admission and verify that your high school has submitted your most recent transcripts, test scores, and any letters of recommendation you requested from the faculty or administrators. If there are missing documents, contact your guidance counselor and have the missing items sent to the colleges immediately.
Once you begin receiving acceptance letters, start comparing the financial aid offers and other conditions of enrollment, especially if you are undecided about which offer to accept. Take into consideration all costs of attendance, available courses and/or majors, study abroad opportunities, and campus life. You want to be sure you are making the right decision, so take some time before committing to any college.
Sometimes, it helps to visit (or revisit) a campus after you have been accepted. If you have two or three options, and just can’t seem to narrow down your choice, schedule a visit to each campus and spend some time shadowing a student and meeting some of the professors you may have over the next four to six years.
You should have already started searching and applying for scholarships last year, but if you’ve been dragging your feet, it’s time to get moving now! There are many scholarships for graduating high school seniors with deadlines between January and May, so set aside some time every week to work on scholarship applications. Try to complete at least five to ten every month. Even small awards can help pay for books and other college expenses. Check with your guidance counselor for local opportunities and don’t forget to use a free online search service, like ScholarshipExperts.com, to help you locate other available scholarship programs.
The Advanced Placement (AP) exams will be administered between May 6 and May 17 this year. If you are enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, exams will be given between May 2 and May 22. You can sharpen your AP essay-writing skills and get test-taking tips online for free, or see sample IB exam papers to help prepare you for the upcoming tests.
Schedule a visit with your guidance counselor if you have not visited with him/her since last year. It’s good to check in and verify you are meeting all required benchmarks for graduation. Also, take this time to thank your counselor for any assistance that he/she may have given you with completing college and scholarship applications.
Before graduation gets any closer, check to see if there are any holds on your account. You may be surprised to find you have an outstanding debt for a missing textbook, unreturned library book, or other school-related fees that are still unpaid. These holds may postpone documentation being sent to colleges or even prevent you from receiving your diploma on time. Settle these debts to prevent any unnecessary delays.
It’s finally here, the moment you have waited for, time to decide which college will be your home this fall! Be sure to send in your acceptance letter with any required fees and materials before the deadline, and contact those schools that you have decided not to attend. Make a note of when your deposit and housing contract is due, as the early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the better dorm room!
You’ve earned this, so take some time to enjoy your last moments as a high school student. Chronicle your remaining weeks with photographs of your friends and favorite places, and schedule time to just chill with your friends. Don’t forget to order announcements and get fitted for your cap and gown. The time will fly by in a wink of an eye, so take it all in and rejoice!
It’s easy to get caught up in all the chaos that is your senior year, but a little planning can go a long way in helping you stay on track. Keep up your grades, complete your college tasks, and then you can relax knowing the finish line is in sight.
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