One More To-Do List for Seniors...

It's not over 'til it's over. Seniors, you may have submitted your applications and caught up on your sleep, but -- apologies! -- there are still some things you need to do. High school counselor and author John Carpenter joins us again this month with some helpful reminders.


January… For most seniors that means applications are finished. Submitted.  Done.




Submitting your application is only one part of this process.  Most kids, I will admit, exhale a big sigh of relief after they've submitted their apps. They either celebrate that the deadline has been met or sleep for two weeks.  And while both options are perfectly acceptable, there’s still a little more to do.  It’s called follow-up.


Here’s a list of tasks to be sure to take care of AFTER you submit your applications:


1. Double check with your counselor to be see that mid-year grades are sent to all the schools to which you’ve applied.  This is something most high schools will take care of for you without being asked, but it’s a good idea to ensure your list and the counselors list of colleges to which you’ve applied match.  “Midyear report” really means official trimester or semester grades. So if you go to a school that uses a trimester system instead of two semesters, chances are there’s no need for a mid-year report because the first trimester grades sent were actually official grades already--as opposed to first quarter grades in a semester system that are often NOT included on a transcript.  Trimester grades and semester grades ARE included on most transcripts and considered official, so those are the grades the colleges need. 


2. Be sure your standardized test scores have been sent to each school that requires them.  That usually means paying a fee to the testing agency to send official scores to the colleges.  While some admissions officers will accept test scores if they come from your counselor, most colleges prefer that official scores are sent to them.  It's your job to get the testing results to the colleges.


3. At many colleges, now is the time to ask if an interview is possible.  Often those can take place near or at your high school and are conducted by alumni.  An interview is not usually required, but it can be helpful, and it gives you a chance to show more of who you are. You can find lots of great tips about interviewing right here on this website.


4. It’s also time to submit any financial aid documents that colleges require--especially the FAFSA if you’re a US citizen.  The sooner those papers are turned in, the sooner your application can be considered for aid.  And if you wait too long, sometimes the financial aid available at some colleges runs out.  It’s always good to work with your parents to get that item checked off the list this month--even if it means estimating taxes instead of waiting until April for the actual numbers.  If you have questions, you or your parents can ask someone in the financial aid offices at the schools where you’ve applied for clarification.  The job of a financial aid officer is to help make it possible for you to attend their college, so don’t be afraid to contact them.


5. For each college, you’ve probably created an account where you can check the status of your application.  Be sure to verify everything has been accounted for on the college side.  If something hasn’t been received yet, a message telling you so should show up there.  However, keep in mind that admissions offices are tracking hundreds of thousands of individual documents and that it sometimes takes a while to update every account.  And in case you haven’t experienced it yourself, this year there have been some minor glitches with electronic submission of documents connected to the new Common App.  So a webpage could say that something’s missing when it really isn’t.   If there is no online way to check things or if you’re super worried, pick up the phone and call the admissions office. That’s right--use the phone and not for texting or sending an email.  Call the admissions office and tell them that you are a high school senior who just wants to see if your application is complete. You’ll need to give your name, Social Security Number, and date of birth--some schools may ask for your Common App number if that’s how you applied or a personal ID number they gave you when you opened your application account.  Make a note of what the person tells you during the call, say thank-you and hang up.  Don’t try to have a conversation with someone on the phone about your application--just ask to find out if your file is complete.  If something is missing, don’t engage in any kind of “but I know it was sent” talk. Just go see your high school counselor and ask him or her to follow up for you.  And remember, whatever they say is missing is most likely really there—just not yet tracked.  Stay calm.


6. Finally, this is a good time to tell some folks how much you appreciate the work they’ve done to support you through the application process:  your parents, your counselor, your teachers, your coaches, your tutor, your friends.  You didn’t do this all by yourself, you know.


So use January as a time to follow up.  Even though the bulk of your work is finished, there are still some details you need to take care of.  Good luck.


John Carpenter is Director of Admissions and University Counseling at UWC Costa Rica. He also works as an independent college counselor and is the author of Going Geek: What Every Smart Kid (and Every Smart Parent) Should Know About College AdmissionsYou can find John's blog at

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