High school seniors, here’s your fall checklist

Photo by Robert Kinlaw, collegetownnc.com

The to-do list for high school seniors seems to be growing longer each day. When they’re not doing homework, participating in their extracurricular activities, hanging with friends, sleeping, eating or texting, here’s what they’re thinking about: their college list, testing, upcoming campus visits, college applications, the Common Application essay, supplemental essays, transcripts, an activity list, letters of recommendation and scholarships.

Are you tired or stressed? Think about how they must feel.

Let’s try to de-stress the situation by creating a fall timeline and breaking each of these bigger tasks into more manageable pieces. Check them off as you complete them:

  • Finalize the college list by making certain it is a balanced list with reach/target/safety schools.
  • Be sure to include an in-state safety school for financial reasons.
  • Review the standardized testing calendar and register for the SAT in October, November or December or the ACT in October or December, if needed.
  • Find out if any of the colleges on your list recommend or require SAT Subject Tests and register for the tests.
  • Check your school’s calendar and take advantage of any teacher work days and schedule campus visits.
  • See if any of the colleges you’re considering offer Open House Dates or Discovery Days for seniors.
  • Determine which schools offer Early Action.
  • Decide if a binding Early Decision option at one college makes sense.
  • Figure out which of the colleges on your final list are on the Common Application, the Coalition and which are not on either and you’ll need to apply directly to the college.
  • Research the number of essays required or recommended by each college and create a document for each college listing its essay prompts and deadlines.
  • Set up accounts on each college’s website.
  • Create a document that keeps track of your usernames and passwords for each college.
  • Prepare a timeline of assignments based on each college’s deadline (i.e., don’t work on the Coalition or the Common Application if none of your early action colleges accept either).
  • Brainstorm essay ideas for colleges with the earliest deadlines
  • Write a first draft of essays.
  • Edit essays, and, yes, edit again.
  • Ask a trusted source to review your essays.
  • Meet with college representatives when they visit your school.
  • Review and then order high school transcripts – and find out how your high school is sending transcripts to each college. Most high schools are now transmitting transcripts electronically.
  • Prepare your resume/brag sheet/activity list and give it to your recommenders.
  • Check to see if any colleges on your list will allow you to attach your resume/brag sheet to their application.
  • Complete the data input into each application.
  • Complete the residency form that is now required by North Carolina public institutions at ncresidency.org.
  • Research which colleges accept letters of recommendation and find out how many they require and how many they will accept.
  • Ask teachers, coaches, advisers and employers for letters of recommendation.
  • Begin researching scholarship opportunities.
  • Check your high school guidance office and the high school website for scholarship opportunities.

After reading this, I hope all of you parents are now a little more sympathetic to the angst of being a high school senior.


Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.comwww.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com