Road Map for September: Seniors

Welcome to your senior year! I hope these first few days have been going well, whatever school looks like for you. I expect this to be a challenging year but I’m also optimistic that it will get better as we go along.

At this point in the year students are starting to submit applications to colleges, and I even have students who have received admission offers already. Not there yet? Don’t panic, this is not the norm—but do get started. I’ve just added two new dates next week for seniors who are ready to work on the Common Application and essays, as well as a free event to give seniors and juniors an overview of the search and application process in this unique COVID-19 environment. Click here for details and registration, or contact me if you’re interested in individual advising.

By now you should have a college list in progress. Since few students were able to do campus visits this year, most of you are relying on virtual tours and information sessions. If you’re still developing or finalizing your list, these are good ways to gather information about a college and decide if it should make the final cut.  Here are some great questions to ask in these meetings.

On the other hand, if you have a pretty good idea of where you’ll be applying but haven’t been doing virtual events, check to see whether each school considers demonstrated interest. You can find this information in each college’s listing on the College Board’s Big Future website.  Click the “Applying” tab on the left side and scroll down to “What’s Important.”  If “Level of Applicant’s Interest” is listed, be sure to do things with that will demonstrate your interest such as attending a virtual tour or information session, or visiting the school at a virtual college fair. Following the school on social media and opening and clicking on their marketing emails can help too.

At this point in the year if you have SAT or ACT scores, consider yourself lucky. If you haven’t had the opportunity to test and want to, I won’t try to talk you out of it but keep in mind that test centers that are scheduled to go forward now may close even up to the last minute. If you haven’t been able to test and don’t want to, either because testing is not a strength for you or because you don’t feel safe being in a group setting indoors, don’t lose sleep over it. At this point more than 60% of 4-year colleges are test-optional and additional announcements keep coming. Check your list. If any of your colleges are still requiring scores, contact the admissions office and ask what their plans are for students who have not been able to sit for an exam. There’s a chance you’ll need to replace one or two schools on your list; however, most students will be OK without testing.

Now is also the time to officially request your letters of recommendation and transcripts. Be sure to follow your school’s policies and keep your school counselor updated on your college list using Naviance, SCOIR, MaiaLearning or whatever system your school uses. And be sure to give your teachers and counselor plenty of notice of your deadlines and the documents you’ll need.

Finally, parents should get ready to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile, both of which open on October 1.  Check out this article for excellent advice on applying for financial aid.  I’ll also be discussing financial aid at “College Admissions: A Road Map” on September 17.