Action Plan Seniors

Getting Your Act Together – Senior Year

Senior year and the push is on. You have a tremendous amount of stuff to get through between now and the end of January. So here goes:

  • Final chance at your SATs
  • Finalize that list of colleges
  • Apply to colleges
  • Apply for scholarships and student loans.

If you’re lucky, you just might have a little time to enjoy your senior year!

All right. Let’s get started…

Take The SAT Tests

This is your last chance at getting a high score. There are two parts to the SAT: SAT I and SAT II. SAT I is a general test of your math and communication skills. SAT II are tests in individual areas. You’ll want to take the one(s) that apply to the subject you plan to major in.

Make sure you take the test well before you have to send the results to colleges. Colleges receive them in approximately three weeks after the test, but there can be delays.

You have two chances for the SAT this fall: in October and November. Registration deadlines are in September for BOTH exams, so check with your guidance counselor to make sure you don’t miss out.

You can prepare for the SAT on-line. At you can download a free diagnostic Mini-SAT. Get SAT Prep Packs and concentrate on those areas where you need the most practice.

Pare Down Your College List To 4 Or 5 Schools

If you’ve already done a college search in your junior year, you’re cool. Skip down to “making the final list.” If not, here’s how to do it.

First think about the big picture:

What do you think will be your major? How definite are your plans? Do you need a school that targets in on that area, or would you prefer more flexibility in case you change your plans? 
How important are playing sports to you? Do you want to participate in varsity sports or are you more interested in just keeping fit and having a good time? What sports do you enjoy?
What about location — a big city or a small town?

Once you have these questions answered, you can begin to narrow your search, choosing those schools that fit your criteria and eliminating the rest.

Then go on-line or to a library or bookstore. There are a huge number of guides you can get listing the colleges and universities in the US and Canada. On-line try Scan through the guides and list the schools that look like possible choices. Write or e-mail those that look the best and ask for information. Most colleges have web sites where you can download information. Spend time actually looking at the information and start eliminating ones that you’re not interested in and making a list of your top choices.

Over the fall and during your spring break, visit these schools. Most colleges make visiting students welcome and may even assign one of their students to take you around and answer your questions. A good place to start is your local community college. Take advantage of field trips offered by your high school to local colleges and universities, even if you’re not interested in going to that particular school. You’ll learn a lot about the admissions process and the kind of questions to ask. During the spring and summer break, visit schools further from home, if you can. Many students completely revise their priority list once they’ve actually seen the campus and talked to the people at the school. Don’t forget any friends you may have studying at one of the schools you’re interested in. They’re your best source for information. For an “insiders view”, try to make plans to spend a day or two with him or her on campus.

When you talk to the schools, ask questions. Lots of them. Also, talk to friends who are in college now, or just graduated, and ask them how they chose their school and what they would do differently or wish they had known before they made their choice.

Making The Final List

OK, by now you should have 4-5 colleges and universities you want to apply to. To make sure all your bases are covered, check that your list includes at least one or two “safe” schools as well as one or two “reach” and two to four “realistic” schools. Meet with your guidance counselor to go over the list.

Request an application, brochure, and financial aid information from each school’s admission office. You may be able to apply on-line.

Finish making your school visits this year. Remember, the “feel” you get about a school can make a big difference in how happy you’ll be there.

Get Ready… Set… Apply…

Filling out those applications can be a real challenge. Meet with your guidance counselor for feedback on the rough drafts of any essays you have to write. He or she may make some suggestions as to what universities are looking for when they read these essays.

Some schools require interviews. If that’s the case, practice beforehand, using your parents or a friend as the interviewer. Videotaping or tape recording the sessions can help you analyze your strengths and weaknesses during the interview.

Decide which teachers, counselors, coaches, etc. you’ll ask to write your recommendation letters. Do they know you well enough to give a good picture? Ask their permission to use them for your recommendations.

Money… Money…

Yeah, college costs. But the good news is, it pays off. The average college grad earns about 20% more per year than the average high school grad. In today’s money, that’s almost a million dollars over your career.

How are you going to pay for school? Click on the basics about college costs, financial aid, and borrowing for college. Our financial aid calculators can help you estimate how much money your family will have to contribute to your education.

There are a lot of scholarships, grants, and loans out there. Many are matched your skills and interests. On-line lists are available at, but this is one area worth a good web search, as well. Your library and guidance counselor can also clue you in on special state, federal, and local aid programs.

Enhance Your Strengths

If you haven’t already, take Advanced Placement or enhanced/enriched courses in your strong subjects.

What If You’re Clueless?

If you’ve got a good picture of where you want to go with your live, go for it! If not, it may just be that you’re not asking yourself the right questions.

What do you enjoy doing? Nothing’s too ridiculous. There are people who make money smelling perfumes and tasting wines. Remember, if you enjoy it, you’re likely to spend the time learning to be good at it, and when you’re good at something, the money follows.

What are you good at? A good way to start any career is to exploit your strengths. It will give you a head start over everyone else.

What kind of work suits your personality? Do you like working with people or working on your own? Do you take initiative or prefer to have clear instructions? How comfortable are you with taking risks? Are you detail-oriented or do you see the big picture? What’s your learning style? All these factors and more can determine how comfortable you are with a particular job. Your high school may have given you personal inventory tests that help you sort this out. If not, you can find a professional personal assessment on

Now that you’ve got a better picture of yourself, meet with your guidance counselor to talk about what kind of a job you’d like. Tell him or her what you enjoy, what you’re good at and what kind of work environment you think would suit you. Ask for suggestions what kinds of jobs might fit those goals.

At the same time, take advantage of any career fairs in your area. And if you’ve got some general idea of a field that interests you, try to meet people who are working in the field. Pick their brains on the kinds of jobs available and how you get started. Volunteer work can also open new possibilities for you. Working in a zoo, a health care center, with children, or for a cause can make you aware of career possibilities