Advice for seniors

A Summer To Do List for Graduating Seniors

Your decision is made and you know where you're headed next fall. But there are still a few things you need to be aware of over the summer in order to insure the transition to campus goes smoothly. Here's one last checklist for you:

• Follow up on any remaining financial aid details.

• Look for summer mailings from your college about housing, orientation, course selection, and other subjects. If you will be away for a significant part of the summer, be sure the college knows where to send your mail, or arrange for your mail to be forwarded. A response from you may be required.

• Make your first payment on time.

• Complete the summer reading assigned by the college.

• Pack for college. Have a wonderful freshman year!

So that's it -- we're out of advice for you. But we will point you in the direction of our excellent move-in advice for college freshmen, which you will find here. Check it out. It will save you -- and your parents -- from back problems, heat exhaustion and repeat trips to the electronics store for cable cords.  

Congratulations, Seniors...

Congratulations, seniors! Enjoy these last few weeks of high school. Just one word of warning! You still need to keep your eye on the ball -- both in the classroom and on campus. Your college acceptance is conditional on completing your senior year at the same level of performance you have shown thus far. Even now, if slacking off gets out of hand, your admission can be rescinded.

And while your classroom work may be completed, beware of any lapse in character or judgment -- drug use, drinking, or any behavioral issue that may result in disciplinary action, including something as stupid as vandalism like knocking over porta-potties at a school event. If you are waitlisted, a dip in grades or lapse in judgment can work against your being admitted. And it's important to model good behavior for the junior class following in your footsteps. So take a deep breath, enjoy all that you've accomplished, but keep up the good work…


Seniors: A last to-do list

You're almost there... Here's a last To Do list to make sure you tie up all loose ends before the graduation celebrations begin:

  • Go back and thank all the people who made this possible for you.
  • Accept the offer of admission and submit a deposit by May 1 at the school where you will enroll.
  • Inform all other schools where you have been offered admission that you will not be enrolling. Remember you’re holding onto someone else’s spot.
  • Start getting to know the school you will attend for the next four years by forming relationships with classmates via social media.
  • Complete financial aid documentation by the designated deadline.
  • Make  arrangements to send your final transcript.

For more information about admission decisions, including your responsibilities in responding by May 1, see Chapter 17, “Notification and Making the Decision" in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

Seniors: Sound Bites for the Notification Noise

As you receive news from the colleges to which you've applied, there can be a lot of noise -- and interference. Inquiring minds want to know if you’ve heard from the colleges, what you heard from the colleges, where you will be going to college. Oh, and how about your friends, the class president, the quarterback, and the kid down the street? Some of this is genuine interest in you and some of it is nosiness and the rest is thinly veiled status competition.

When we wrote our book, we asked Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes— the inspiration for the hit movie Mean Girls— and an expert on teens and parenting, for her advice about talking the talk during this step in the college admission process. Here's here advice -- including some very useful sound bites:

Seniors, Think Carefully about Where and When You Get Your College News

Seniors, your news from colleges may arrive by snail mail, express, or email. Most colleges now offer a Web look-up option. But think carefully about when and where you want to sign in to get your news and whether you want to have a friend or family with you. Whether your news is good or bad -- and no matter how it comes -- finding out can be an emotional experience that may impact you and distract you more than you think it will. Be cautious.

For more information on deciding where to enroll, wait lists, and sharing your news, see Chapter 17, "Notification and Making the Decision," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

Seniors: Get off the Beaten Track on a Return College Visit

If you are making a return visit to a college or visiting for the first time after being admitted, make sure you get off the beaten path  -- that is, do some exploring past the official information session and tour.  Hang out at the student union, visit the study spaces in the library, or browse in the bookstore, grab lunch at a campus cafeteria, arrange to sit in on a class or meet with a professor. And ask questions of everyone. You may be surprised at how willing students are to speak candidly with you. Here are some questions to ask:

                Why did you decide to go to school here?

                What's a typical student like?

                Are professors accessible? How do you spend time with faculty outside the classroom?

                What do students do on the weekends here?

                Who fits in here and who doesn’t?

                How hard is it to get the classes you need?

                What was your biggest surprise about going to school here?

                What was your freshman year like? How difficult was the transition?

And, once you're in, the question you're asking yourself is no longer prefaced by "If I get in..." Instead, it's "I can go here if I want. Is this the right place for me?"


Seniors: Keep Calm and Carry On! No Matter What You Read Online or In The Media

If you pay attention to headlines and news crawls, you may be feeling some anxiety about your college admission and financial aid. When it comes to the subject of college admission, the media work hard to bring home an A+ in sensationalism. You may have been hearing about record numbers of applications, 6% acceptance rates, and financial aid letters leaving students confused and misinformed.

While it's true that more students are applying to more colleges, that competition for seats at some colleges has increased and that the cost of college continues to rise, reality runs counter to most of what you read in the media.  Even when what you read in the media is factual, often its focus is so narrow it doesn't really apply at all. The number of colleges that are highly selective is TINY! The vast majority of colleges accept two-thirds or more of their applicants. In UCLA’s most recent Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) annual survey of first-year students at four-year   colleges and universities, 79 percent reported being accepted to their “first-choice” college. If you've done the proper research and applied to a balanced list of eight to ten colleges, taking into account both selectivity and affordability, you will do well.

Seniors, Start Thinking about Return Visits to the Colleges

Seniors, start thinking about return visits to the colleges on your list. You will most likely be accepted at several of those schools. Once you have an acceptance in hand, the view from the middle of campus may look and feel different. You can change a lot in the months between a first visit and an acceptance letter. So if you can afford the cost and time away from your studies, we recommend a second visit before you commit. And if you have been unable to visit the schools on your list before applying, you should make every effort to visit once you have been admitted. Let the admission office know if a school is high on your list, but you have been unable to make a trip. Some colleges are able to subsidize transportation costs for a small number of admitted student visits.

For more information about college visits and return visits, see Chapter 9, “College Visits” and Chapter 17, "Notification and Making the Decision" in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

Seniors: Check the Colleges' "Outside Scholarship Policies"

Seniors, you should still be applying for scholarships at this time. But, as you do, please check with the colleges to which you’ve applied about how they handle scholarships from private groups and organizations— known as “outside awards”—in the calculation of their financial aid award. Different colleges calculate their impact differently.

Colleges are legally prohibited from overawarding federal aid. In other words, the total amount of aid a student receives cannot be greater than a college’s cost, and usually not more than a student’s overall calculated financial need. Some colleges count half an outside award toward grant aid and half toward student self- help, lowering the student’s work- study or loan amount by the equivalent of half the outside award. Others count the entire outside award against loans and work- study, and only lower the institutional grant portion of an aid award if self- help is brought down to zero. Still others count the entire outside award against institutional gift aid. Best advice: always apply for a scholarship, but check with every college and university on your list about their *outside scholarship policy* so you can understand what happens to your need-based financial aid package when you win a merit scholarship.


Seniors: Make Sure the Colleges Receive your Midyear Report

The Midyear Report covers a student's grades, courses, and activities, as well as any disciplinary or criminal history. It is usually completed by the high school college counselor or guidance counselor. Students should request their counselor send this report to ALL colleges to which they are applying. Check the websites of the colleges to which you are applying for the deadline for submission of this report and follow up to make sure the report was sent and the college received it.