Senior year is fast approaching. Many of you have told yourselves you have plenty of time before having to worry about the college application process–you don’t. The time to start preparing is now. I’ll be blunt, senior year is brutal. The biggest lie you will be told — next to Santa Clause not being real — is that senior is the best year of high school. Here’s what you need to do to make it — you know what nevermind. You won’t take the advice. Go on doing what you were going to do anyway. I know you won’t listen, but I’ll still give my speel and hope some of it sticks with you.
Almost all colleges require an SAT or ACT. The announcements you hear from the counselors’ center regarding standardized tests aren’t for seniors. They are for you. Sign up and take both tests at least once. You will do better on one than the other. Once you figure that out, check out a practice guide from the library and get to work trying to improve it. The ACT and SAT aren’t IQ tests. You can study to improve your score. If you can squeeze in more tests your junior year, do it. You will thank yourself when you won’t have to wake up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday to come take a test during your sleep-deprived senior year.
The next most important task you can invest your time into is writing college essays. The single most important essay you will write in your high-school career is probably your Common Application Essay — the online application that is used to apply to many colleges and universities. This single essay will be used virtually in every school you apply to and could potentially be the thing that makes you stand out if your test scores aren’t spectacular.
College app essay writing is an art. It requires certain a certain style of writing that highlights you as an awesome and capable student without making you sound arrogant. The reader needs to see and feel who you are through your writing — one thing numbers and test scores can’t do.
That being said, go online, find the most common college essay prompts, and at least be brainstorming about some of them from now until when the Common Application opens up again at the beginning of August. At that point, you should start writing it.
Letter of Recommendations
“Hey Professor Lundsworth, could you write me a letter of recommendation for The University of College?”
“When is it due?”
“In two days.” Awkward silence
Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for letters of recommendations. It’s not fair for the teacher or you. There is some etiquette to follow when asking for a letter: Give at least two-weeks notice (I’d shoot for three), a resume, and background on what it is for. It gives teachers time to brainstorm. Many will still write it towards the end of the deadline, but they know what they are going to say and how because they have had it in the back of their minds for weeks. Think of it as a less destructive form of procrastination. Have a letter of recommendations from a math/science teacher and a humanities teacher (English, history, the arts, music, etc). If you know what you want to major in and have taken a class that pertains to it, ask for a letter specifically from that teacher. For example, students who have taken Medical Terminology and plan to make a career in the medical field can ask the teacher of that class to write a letter–it looks good.
You know what forget about it. I don’t expect you to follow the advice. That’s the tragic flaw of high-school seniors: realizing the truth only when it’s too late. I don’t want you to have to go through what I did, but I guess there is no better teacher than mistakes. Enjoy your senior year.
P.S. Stock up on stress balls, caffeine for the late nights, and excuses for every conceivable situation that you think will arise your final year of high school.