By Natalie Mowbray, ’22
Although the fall of a new school year typically brings excitement and new beginnings, it can also be a time of great stress for seniors. As many of you know, this time of year sparks the beginning of the college application season. Between narrowing down lists, filling out applications and working on essays, it can seem overwhelming. As I just finished this process myself, I’m sharing some advice on how next year’s seniors can make this time of year less worrisome and more enjoyable.
For the majority of high school students, summer vacation is seen as the time of year with the least amount of responsibilities and stressors. But if you’re heading into senior year, take advantage of the opportunity that summer offers! As fall approaches, many seniors face the most rigorous course load of their entire high school career. To avoid an overlap between applications and school work, summer is a great time to get started on your application to-do list.
- Begin writing your college essay over the summer. During the fall of senior year, you will spend your English classes editing and finalizing your essay. For the best results, come into senior year English with a pretty solid draft. You can get topic ideas and sample prompts from the Common App and writing tips from online sources such as Khan Academy.
- The Common App opens on August 1st. Used by more than 900 colleges, the common app is a must for most students. Creating an account is straightforward and the majority of the information can be completed prior to senior year. This way, it will be faster to apply to all of your colleges. Your guidance counselor will hold senior workshops to help you complete the common application, so don’t forget to check your email!
- Finalize your college list. To make the application season smoother, finalize which colleges you’re interested in attending. Don’t forget to include a range of schools, from those where you’re likely guaranteed admission to those that may be a reach. Although there is nothing wrong with including schools that might be out of your range, it is important to include schools that you should be admitted to and would attend. To sense which schools fall into these categories, the admission scatterplot on the platforms Naviance or Scoir will help. This data is limited to only HHS applicants which gives better and more personalized information.
- Secure at least two letters of recommendation. One should preferably be from a STEM teacher and the other teacher should be a humanities teacher. Additionally, try to find a teacher that taught you during your junior year of high school. Although it is best to ask in person before the end of junior year, it is also acceptable to ask over the summer. Just ensure that the teacher knows your first college deadline – often. November 1st for many early applicants – so that you can apply on time.
- Keep your grades up! It is a common misnomer that senior year grades are not important. However, poor senior grades or grades that have declined from your usual performance can negatively impact your chance at admission. Sometimes, you can be deferred from or are a borderline candidate for some colleges. Having exceptional grades during terms 1 and 2 can give you the boost needed to be accepted.
Although this portion of high school can be especially stressful, try not to be discouraged or overwhelmed. The guidance department is always available if you have questions or need help with applications. Speaking for myself, I went to guidance on numerous occasions to help me narrow down my list and write my college essays. Just remember you are not alone in this stressful task. Senior year is often cited as people’s favorite time at HHS, so don’t forget to cherish the last memories of high school while focusing on what will come next!