This is a time of agonized waiting for many high school seniors. They have submitted their college applications and supporting materials. Now their fate lies in the hands of admissions officers who are busily reading through applications. During this often agonized waiting game, students, families, and schools can use this time wisely. Here are some tips to help you navigate this challenging waiting time.
1. Check that college files are complete. Check your status regularly. Colleges will send you unique ways to track your applications. Check right now that everything is complete. It would be a shame to miss out on admissions because a college didn't get your first semester grades or your final set of test scores. Colleges will also communicate your acceptances and other key information via their sites. Check them regularly.
2. Complete all financial aid applications now. March 1 is the major deadline for FAFSA, CSS Profiles and many state grants, and the sooner you submit them the better. Please beg your family members to provide all their financial information now as waiting will significantly reduce potential aid you can receive.
3. Apply for scholarships and contests. You have written application essays. Don't let them get moldy. Use them again for scholarships. Apply for at least two. Visit college websites for merit scholarships. Find local ones for students in your area. Be creative. You can even submit your essays to writing competitions.
4. Submit any necessary updates. If you were deferred to a college, send them an updated email or letter. Send in another letter of recommendation. Keep in constant contact. February is a great month for a final contact with some great news or other updates. If you changed spring classes, you also need to contact schools.
5. Keep spring semester grades high; don't fall victim to senioritis. I know it's tempting to fall victim to senioritis. But fight it off. Keep working and doing your best. Colleges will see your spring grades. While they accept some small slips, they have no empathy for dramatic plunges. Teachers, parents, and counselors should be in constant contact with their students, teachers, and schools. Don't assume everyone is on the same page. Prevent disasters early. I have known several kids who lost their spots because they entered the black hole of senioritis, and no one intervened.
6. Prepare for April college visits. You will most likely get accepted to several colleges. Prepare to visit them in late March and April before the national May 1 intent to register deadline. The colleges will host open houses on their campuses and in many cities around the country. You can spend the night in dorms, visit classes, and meet currents students. Plan ahead.
7. Apply for honors programs. Many colleges on your list have honors programs that have winter and spring deadlines. Apply now, and you can get priority enrollment, housing, and other benefits.
8. Plan active summers. This is the time to plan for your summer. What are your goals? Do you want to work? Do you want to be a camp counselor? Do you want to do an internship? If you're planning on going to community college or transferring, this is the time to do something career related or to take classes. There are many great opportunities for all high school graduates.
9. Consider a gap year. Yes, you are about to complete high school. You may be burned out or just eager for a change. A gap year may truly benefit you. You can experience something new and enter college refreshed. I know a teenager who is trekking through New Zealand as we speak. He will be attending a major four year college next fall as a freshman after also completing an art internship. There are many programs that are no cost as well. Teen Life has a great set of resources for those interested: https://www.teenlife.com/pages/gap-year-programs/
10. Leave a legacy. Think about what your high school or places of community service. Could it use any additional resources? Could you prepare younger students to take over your groups? What can you do to help leave your high school or community stronger than ever? Plan a fundraiser. Do some significant training. Become a peer college counselor and motivate younger students.