Senior year

The essential guide to success in college preparation



Picture obtained from iStock.

Austin Liu, News Editor, Reporter

Books upon books. Papers upon papers. Projects upon Projects. Tests upon tests. The summer days after the high school junior year have ended. It is time to adjust to a new school year: senior year. For many students, this time can be one of the most pressuring and challenging periods to pass as students scramble to submit their college applications on time, produce the best impression for college admissions officers during their visits and take advantage of all available scholarships and other forms of financial aid as possible. This exciting, but tough time causes confusion and panic among already worried students.

However, senior students should not need to fear the work ahead and the road before them in transitioning from high school life to college life as an independent adult. Especially during this time, seniors should charge forward with all their strength and experience all that the senior year offers. Although the senior year may seem like an impossible journey to complete, the tips below from FHS student counselors Cindy Alley (Last Name Lf-Pa) Staci Petrich (Last Name A-Ch) to direct the Class of 2018 to the road to success at the finish line of their high school years to their college year beginnings. Good luck seniors!


SAT and ACT Test Taking Tips:

  1. Practice tests can be very useful to prepare for a standardized test. It is recommended that all students do some kind of prep work, whether it is practicing online, from a book, or taking a class. Repetition and mimicking the testing environment can be very helpful, too.
  2. Ask the Admissions Offices at each college which standardized test (SAT and/or ACT) is preferred, and if any subject tests are required. It is important to look into each specific test’s deadline and fees. Fee waivers for tests are available for students who need help to pay for tests.
  3. Subject tests are best taken as soon as possible after completing the coursework in high school so that the material is fresh in students’ minds. Some colleges have very specific requirements about which Subject Tests are required, so it is important to check on this with the Admissions Offices of schools high on a student’s interest list.
  4. Most students take the SAT or ACT at least twice. Colleges have their own way of using standardized test scores; some may take only the best individual scores, some may take the most recent, and all are likely to notice improved scores. Therefore, ask the Admissions Office at each school how scores are handled.
  5. Use the College Board ( database of schools has information on average standardized test scores, GPAs, SAT/ACT ranges, and the selectivity of schools.
  6. Admission decisions are likely to include a much more comprehensive set of criteria, and each school will see which students will be a good fit for a certain year’s entering class. Each high school submits a profile to colleges that details statistics about types/difficulty of courses, the number of students who participate in the rigorous classes, and typical grades.


Applying to College Process:

  1. Apply to a wide range of different schools! The college list should include approximately 6 to 8 colleges on average. Start planning the list now to not make last-minute decisions.
  2. Include one or two colleges where you feel you’ll most likely get in-a 90-100 percent chance. These are usually called safety schools.
  3. Include two to four colleges that are overall good “matches”-a 75 percent chance of getting in. These are colleges that fit academically and socially.
  4. Include one or two “reach” colleges-a 25 percent or less chance of getting in. These are colleges that present an admissions challenge.


College Essays:

  1. The bottom line for both essays and interviews is to be sincere and clear. Two basic things school need to know to decide if the student and the college are a good match. First, does what the student wants out of her college experience fit what the college can offer in terms of its own mission and goals? Second, can the student do the work, both academically and emotionally? Academically, the school needs to know if the student will be able to keep up with the coursework.
  2. Another issue students may wish to think about now, and which may help them with any admission essays and interviews, is why certain majors and careers are of interest to them, why they might want to stay “undecided” for awhile, or why they are interested in a certain school. It may be helpful to start jotting down notes about possible topics. These may include why they feel a certain school is a good fit, why certain activities are important to them, memorable times in her life, etc.
  3. In writing essays, remember to be yourself, let them know who the student is, be creative, get excited, make sure you are well researched, write from the heart, make sure you answer the question or topic of discussion, write a couple of different versions and get feedback, re-write it if you have to, make sure to have it proofread carefully, and be confident and let them know what a great fit you are.
  4. Do not over-edit. To avoid that, students should select one or two other people, perhaps a close friend or parent, who are capable of doing a final review of the essay and give feedback. While writing, be concise and use good grammar in your essay.
  5. Do not to worry about what you think the college wants to hear. There is no perfect or correct essay. In fact, essay topics that result in hundreds of different responses are purposely chosen so the admissions staff will not have to read the same thing in each one. Your task is to make yours stand out. Essays that are most effective seize a topic with confidence and imagination.
  6. There is no question that an honest, personal essay is much more effective than an essay that recites a list of high school achievements. A good topic is one you want to write about, not one you think you ought to write about. The very best essays are the ones that truly do come from the heart; they don’t come from a list.
  7. Always choose the topic that feels right to you—trust your instincts. With your essay, you want to prove two things: that you are a decent writer and that you are an interesting mature person. A well-written essay can help to tip the scales in your favor. Remember that colleges are looking for what makes you stand out among so many other applicants.
  8. Show AND tell. Essays show who you are, not simply what you have done. Tell a story only you could possibly tell. Be sure to write about something personal that you can be passionate about. Your essay should be about you. It should be of you. Don’t write what you think others want to hear. Answer the question honestly.

College Visits:

  1. Visits are the best way to really get a feel for what life at a school will be like, and to make informed choices. It will be important to feel confident and comfortable about both academic education, as well as the total living environment through evaluate such as the view out a dorm window, the athletic facilities, or even that the student’s favorite food is offered at the local dining hall.
  2. It is important to learn things about the school like how accessible are the faculty and what support services are offered.
  3. Visit a few schools to begin to develop an idea about what environment feels right, which will likely help to make an informed decision about which schools to complete an application.
  4. Contact the Admissions Offices of schools to go for a visit. For any college visit, it is important to check dates and times for Information Sessions and Tours. Also, write all questions out for the Information Sessions and Tours ahead of time.
  5. Call the Dean’s Office to schedule a tour of the specific college/department in which the student would like to study. This also shows the college that the student is VERY interested!
  6. Ask if it is possible to be referred to current students that are willing to speak with prospective students. While the Information Sessions, Tours, and talks with faculty are extremely important in the information gathering process, talks with students may help to form a better idea about how happy current students are with the education they are receiving.
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