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A College Admissions Checklist for Rising Seniors

Having completed what is typically the most challenging high school academic year, students preparing to enter their senior year typically have a lot of questions about what they should be doing to prepare for college applications. After all, fall of senior year is truly crunch time for completing and submitting applications. With those questions in mind, we thought we'd put together a brief checklist of items to be thinking about as the next school year approaches.

1. Narrow the List of Colleges of Interest: At this point, it's likely you already have a general idea of the types of colleges you might be interested in sending an application. Hopefully you already have a list of these colleges prepared. Heading into senior year, we recommend students try to narrow the list down to 10colleges at a maximum. With this list, you should start visiting campuses (virtually), reaching out to admissions teams to ask questions, and determining what admissions requirements look like for each school (for example, do they use the Common App, Coalition App, or another format? What supplemental essays do they require?).

2. Complete Common and/or Coalition Essays: We've mentioned in multiple other posts the importance of using the summer before senior year to complete Common and/or Coalition App essays. As you refine and narrow your list of potential colleges, it's important to understand what type of essays will be required and to start those essays as early as possible.

3. Identify Teachers for Recommendations: Most colleges still require some form of a teacher recommendation as part of the college application. Take the time now to identify who you'd like to write your recommendation and contact them about it immediately. Odds are that as application due dates approach, teachers at your school are going to be overwhelmed with recommendation requests. Beat the rush and your recommendation will be far more authentic.

4. Consider Whether to take or Re-take the SAT or ACT: How do your standardized test scores stack up against the average admitted student at each of the colleges where you are considering applying? If you aren't towards the middle 50th percentile or higher, it might be worth strongly considering a re-test. Additionally, what the test score policies at each of these colleges? Do they only view your superscore or do they want to see your entire testing history? These policies should also factor into your testing decisions. (If you're unsure of what a superscore is:

5. Review Your Extracurricular Activities: Your extracurricular activities will be a critical component to any college application you submit. How involved in extracurriculars have you been in the first three years of high school? It's time to examine this involvement and make some decisions about what activities outside of the classroom you'd like to pursue in your senior year.

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