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09/13/2013 11:45 am ET

The Pre-Collegiette's Month-By-Month Guide To College Applications

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By Cameron Simcik

Senior year: the last hoorah, the final stretch, the most stressful time of high school? With college applications taking over your life, the first few months of senior year might seem overwhelming and daunting. From balancing homework with mastering your college essays and attending SAT classes after team practice, you feel swamped. Is it even possible for a pre-collegiette to do it all? To put it simply, yes! No need to stress, because Her Campus has put together a month-to-month, fool-proof guide to college prep senior year that’ll keep you organized and ulcer-free.

September

September is also the time to meet with your high school counselor to discuss post-graduation plans. Make an extra effort to let him or her know what you’re all about by scheduling a meeting ASAP. Narrow your college list so he or she has a clearer idea of the direction you want to take. The more specific you are, the better! (Only interested in small liberal arts schools on the East Coast or Greek life schools with a great science program? This is the time to let your counselor know.)

By this time, you should have a good idea of who you want to ask for letters of recommendation, including teachers, mentors, and employers. Keep in mind that recommendations should be from adults who have known you since at least sophomore or junior year; they not only know you well, but will also be able to convey your best attributes most clearly. Not sure who to ask? Think about the class you’re most passionate about, and choose that teacher. Even if you don’t have straight A’s, chances are your love of the subject translates into dedication and commitment, both of which are very attractive qualities to college admission counselors. If you're interested in taking or re-taking the SATs or SAT IIs, you may have already signed up for the October test date. If that's the case, time to start studying! If you missed the October registration date, sign up for the November SATs early ensure your spot.

At this point, take a deep breath. September is the busiest prep month for college, but you’re almost there! The last thing on your September to-do list is to work on your application essays. Have writer’s block? HC has you covered with our article on writing your college admissions essay.

September Checklist:

  • Create a calendar of all important dates
  • Meet with your guidance counselor
  • Ask for letters of recommendation
  • Register and study for October and November SATs and SAT IIs
  • Work on application essays

October

With a full month of senior year under your belt, you’re back into the swing of things. You’ve been working on college essays for a while, so now is the time to proofread, proofread, and proofread some more! Cassidy, a current high school senior, has realized how helpful this is: “I've been working on essays since the summer. At the end of junior year, a bunch of seniors told us to start early if we wanted to be on top of everything. And I'm glad I did! Essays are the best way to express who you really are, and you need to put a giant amount of work and care into them.”

This month is also the time to finalize your college list. If you decide to apply Early Action or Early Decision to a college, deadlines are usually November 1, so now is the time to make sure your entire application is in order. If applicable, you’ll also want to start compiling your FAFSA forms (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), because the deadline is typically in the beginning of November for early applicants. Don’t forget to have all required materials, like SAT scores and grade reports, sent off to colleges as well! Your counselor can help you with this step.

October Checklist:

  • Edit your application essays
  • Finalize your college list

Early Decision and Early Action applicants:

  • Compile all application materials
  • Send standardized test scores to schools

Click here to read the full story on HerCampus.com.

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