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Applying to College Guide: Senior Year

Senior year — you made it! But how do you make the most of it? Here, we break down exactly what to do, and when, if your plan is to go to college.

Fall of Senior Year

1. Continue to visit schools
Visiting campuses is a great way to get a feel for the school. Use some of your fall break time to visit some of the schools you’re undecided about.

Must read: The Best Thing to Do on Your College Tour? Get Off It

2. Make sure you understand admissions requirements for each school
Check the admissions section of the college profiles on Niche to see the admissions requirements, so you can get everything you need in order. Here’s the admissions section for Harvard University:

3. Take the SAT/ACTs, if you haven’t already
The last dates for the SAT and ACT are in December, so if you’re a straggler, you can still take the exams. Just make sure you’re able to get your scores before the application deadlines.

Check these out:

4. Ask for letters of recommendation, if you haven’t already
Give your chosen writer or writers plenty of time to write– at least a month, if not more. If they are teachers, they may have to write several on top of their already packed schedules!

5. Submit your applications for Early Decision or Early Action
If you decide to submit your application Early Decision, you must withdraw your applications to other schools if you are accepted. You can still apply to other schools if you choose to apply Early Action.

6. Submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
Since 2017, filing for the FAFSA now begins October 1. Each college may have a different deadline for completion. Check with the college(s) you are interested in attending.

Must read: Your No-Nonsense, No-Stress Guide to the FAFSA

7. Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®
PROFILE is an online application used by certain colleges and scholarship programs to determine eligibility for aid. Check out The College Board’s guide to CSS Profile.

8. Compare the Net Price of the schools on your list to get a good idea of what you can expect in terms of financial aid
On Niche, we list a college’s “Net Price,” or the average sticker price for the school after grants and scholarships. Here’s Harvard’s cost breakdown:

Winter of Senior Year

1. Submit the last of your applications (Jan 1 is a common deadline)
December is crunch time for applications since most schools have a January 1 application deadline. Many schools have later application deadlines– be sure to check the admissions website of each school.

Check these out:

2. Continue to search for scholarships
Now that you have a better idea about your financial needs for college, search for scholarships to fill in the gaps during this down time. On Niche, you can personalize your scholarship search, using different factors such as current state, interest, major, and more:

3. Send your high school transcript to the colleges you applied to
The schools you’re applying to need to know that you’re keeping up with your grades during senior year. Let them know that you’re still doing a great job. 🙂

Spring of Senior Year

1. Acceptance letters go out March/April, so be on the lookout
If you’ve been waitlisted, the school should reach a decision by May.

2. Take your AP Exams
If you’ve been taking AP classes, scoring a 3 or higher on the AP exam can land you college credit or advanced placement, saving you potentially thousands of dollars on repeat classes.

3. Compare financial aid packages before making your final decision
A good financial aid package can set you up for financial success after graduation, easing the burden of repaying loans. If you’re still in need of cash for college, we have information about your options for loans, scholarships, and more.

4. Send in the deposit for the school you want to attend, and let other schools know you won’t be attending
May 1st is the decision deadline for most colleges and universities in the U.S. After doing your share of research about each school, you’ve got to make a final decision. Be sure to visit the Niche profiles of each school to take one last look at reviews, student body stats, polls, and more.

5. Apply for loans
When you’ve maxed out your options for federal aid and scholarships, applying for loans can help you get through the school year.

Summer Before College

Must read: 5 Important Things to Do This Summer Before Leaving for College

1. Register for Freshman Orientation
This isn’t required for all freshman students, but attending orientation can ensure a smooth transition into freshman year.

2. Talk with your parents
College is a big step, a big opportunity, and yes, a big investment. Your parents can be a good source of guidance about your future, so make sure they are in the loop with your plans.

2. Do more research about campus life at school
Curious about what kinds of activities are offered? Or what students think of the housing? Check out the Campus Life page of your college to view student polls and information about activities, sports, the party scene and more. Here’s a look at Harvard’s:

3. Relax and enjoy your time at home before school starts
Arguably the most important “to-do” of all! Don’t take for granted your time with family and friends as you prepare for a new chapter of your life.

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Author: Alex Caffee

Former Marketing and Business Analyst at Niche. Dessert aficionado. Currently living and working in New York City.