Photo via Flickr (Aldon Hayes) under Creative Commons license
This entry of Senior Walk is gonna be a pretty big eye opener for some, so I feel the best way to start is to say there are only 233 days until graduation. That’s right — the days are numbered until the first chapter of their lives ends and seniors experience the freedom after high school. However, with the end of high school comes the start of college and a lot must be done before then.
Some say senior year is the easiest year in high school. The classes aren’t too difficult, seniors can exempt all exams second semester, and at this point students are accustomed to the high school atmosphere. But senior year has its fair share of hard work. At this point seniors have a long list of items they need to get done before graduation, including: SAT/ ACT finalization, applying to colleges at appropriate times, and hunting for scholarships and financial aid.
“You don’t want to put anything off or procrastinate,” guidance counselor Colleen Petty said. “I know seniors have a lot on their plate and a lot of them are in AP classes which are demanding and time consuming, but you have to [do applications]. For example, this weekend we have Monday and Tuesday off and if they can just dedicate three hours one day and three the next, they probably could be done with those.”
SAT/ ACT finalization is the first thing seniors need to complete. While it may seem like there are still many tests ahead to take, it is wise for seniors to be wrapping up these tests since they need their scores to apply to colleges, scholarships, and other programs. It can also lead to final decisions about college since the scores determine the scholarships that will determine college cost and selection.
“What [seniors] need to be focusing on is probably finishing up their SAT or ACT [and] October or maybe November should probably be their last tests,” Petty said.
After the testing is complete, it’s time to start with college applications. If you are planning on going the regular admissions route, you still have a few months to get everything you need together. However, the time is almost done for early action and early decision as most colleges will close this feature at the latest on Nov. 1. Some colleges even closed their applications this past Monday. But with all that said you may be wondering why is it even worth it to apply early and not take the extra months that comes with regular admissions? The answer is simple: money.
Before I can explain the advantages of early applications, it is important to understand the difference of early action and early decision. They are two different things. Early action is the one you are going to want to do when applying to college, as it allows you to apply early, find out if you got in early, and nothing more. Early decision, however, automatically enrolls you into the college with little chance of escape, if you get in. This means if you hit this button and get into a school, you are there for at least the next year. And the only thing you get out of this is you find out a little earlier than the early action people. Long story short, only use early decision if you are 100 percent sure you are going to a school.
The advantages of early application are pretty simple. First, it allows you to know if you got into a school before most others and can allow you to choose a school by Christmas break. Wouldn’t having a college already selected going into second semester be nice? It also gives you access to all the scholarships being given away by schools in January and February, when most of the money is up for grabs. This money, by the way, won’t be available to most regular decision people, so remember that as the early application deadline comes closer.
“The main reason to do an early action is that you get your answer earlier,” Petty said. “And then you can breathe a sigh of relief because it cannot only be stressful it can be expensive.”
The final thing seniors need to worry about is scholarships and financial aid. If college could be summed into one word, “expensive” would be a good choice. Student loan debt increases every year, so it is important to choose a college that you can actually afford. The best way to make that choice more doable is with scholarships. Free money is being given out by all kinds of organizations who just want writing samples or proof that you did something. Look for them! If you just apply to one scholarship every week until graduation, just think about all that money you could have toward college. Also, if going in state remember to stay on course for HOPE, which gives 80 percent of tuition and Zell Miller, which pays the rest of HOPE.
Financial aid also can help pay for college. In fact, it is required if you even want a chance at the scholarships colleges are giving away. Financial aid is government funds given to students to pay for college. You can apply for it starting Oct. 1, and it needs to be completed as part of most school’s application process.
Seniors have lots to do before they can start college next year, so get on it. And to end on a more exciting note, remember October starts senior nights for fall sports. Go out and support your senior athletes!