For high school students, the first semester of senior year is crazy, stressful and all kinds of other things. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, most seniors applying to college feel only one thing right now: exhaustion. Nevertheless, now is the time for a final push!
Parents frequently ask me for advice to help their kids stay focused on their college applications during this busy time. There’s no way to sugar coat it because the process is not easy but there is cause for optimism. My pep talk emphasizes five distinct points:
- Give Yourself Multiple Choices. Think back to last April. How much have your thoughts about college changed since then? Likely, quite a bit. You are going to think differently and feel differently about your college choices in a few months, and you want to make sure your options allow you to make the best choice. Finishing out these last few applications helps you keep your options open until it’s time to decide what’s the next right step.
- Take Nothing For Granted. While you and everyone you know may be convinced you will get into Amazing University, the truth is that college admissions is tough these days. Even if you are feeling confident, finishing out your list of reasonable admission schools is a MUST. Ideally, you will never need to worry about these schools. However, if you are not admitted to your top choice schools, these applications will be the most important you do, so do them, and do them on time, and to the best of your ability.
- You Can Reduce or Avoid Student Loans. Your future self will thank you if you can reduce or avoid student loans. So do not leave applications to schools that are backups, likely scholarship opportunities, or in-state options until the last minute. These schools could provide you with the best value and turn out to be the perfect match for you. You also do not yet know what your financial aid packages will look like so position yourself so that schools will compete for you. Finally, remember that you have no idea what could change with your parents’ jobs or even the stock market. Finishing these last few applications will help you plan for those scenarios as well.
- Your Grades Still Matter. If you can finish up applications by the end of Thanksgiving break, you will have cleared the decks for a strong academic finish to the semester. Even if you’ve applied under an early admission program, in some instances, your first semester grades from senior year could be a critical factor in admissions or scholarships. If you are still stressed or overwhelmed by the admissions process, you will not do your best work on exams. Grades continue to be the number one factor in almost all admissions processes; it is imperative that you make the time to do your best possible work for first semester grades.
- Once You Finish, You Are Done Forever! The good news is – the college application process is a finite amount of work. Check off all of the items on your list: submitting applications, requesting recommendations, sending test scores, signing up for interviews, and whatever else needs to be done. Once you have finished checking all the boxes, you will be free to wait for answers from the admissions offices while you concentrate on prioritizing your schoolwork, spending time with your family over the holiday season, and enjoying all that senior year has to offer.
Nicole has dedicated the entirety of her 20 year career to encouraging higher education opportunities. After graduating from Vanderbilt, she worked in her alma mater’s admissions office. The, she completed her PhD in Counseling so she could bring that expertise into college counseling. Nicole partnered with her former Vanderbilt colleague, Fitz Totten, to form Find The Right College and support their mission to make trustworthy advising more accessible.