Are you or your child spending some sleepless nights thinking about the start of senior year and the college selection process?  

Here is some advice on how to get yourself (or your student) situated for a great start to the new school year and beyond:

We challenge you to check most of these items off of your ‘to do’ list by the end of the first week of classes

1)       Check in with your guidance counselor.  You can initiate this over the summer by e-mail and then make sure to follow up during the first few days of school in September.  The Guidance Office is a great place to find out lots of information on so many important upcoming events (for example, you definitely want to know what colleges are visiting your school and key dates for upcoming standardized tests).  Keep current with this and other vital information by making yourself a ‘frequent flyer’ at the guidance office.  Make sure that during the first week of school you:

  1. Set up a meeting with your guidance counselor
  2. Understand the application submission protocol at your high school and FOLLOW IT
  3. Learn about standardized testing information
  4. View the upcoming schedule of college visits
  5. Find out deadlines for submitting guidance counselor and teacher recommendation requests
  6. Find out what information regarding college scholarships is available at the guidance office

2)       Deadlines calendar.  Time flies once the school year begins.  Take some time over the summer to brainstorm all of the upcoming events in the college selection process and put them on your calendar.  Whether you prefer the paper or electronic format–plan for upcoming deadlines and be prepared to add many more once you are back at school.

3)     College Essay.  Start thinking about your college essay over the summer.  Plan to work on this important part of your application for a few hours each week for the next few weeks.  If you have a draft essay (or better yet a second, third, or final draft) ready before Labor Day you will be well ahead of the game once school starts.  Remember, senior year is busy.  You don’t have much time to focus on your application essay.  The summer is a great time to do this.  Take a look at our recent post Everyone has a great story for ideas and information on writing a great college essay.

4)    Take a look at The Common Application.  Take some time to set up your personal account, look at the list of schools that participate, and look through the questions asked by the application.  Many of you will apply to schools that use this form and this “one stop” approach will save you time and keystrokes.

5)       Plan school visits.  You should plan on visiting a number of schools during the fall of your senior year.  We recommend calling now to register for a tour and information session.  Plan to spend a few hours on each campus and remember to take notes and pictures to help you remember your visit and document your thoughts and response to the campus and programs.  You should have your list of schools to which you plan to apply finalized by mid October!

6)       Breathe!  Remember to have fun senior year.

Meanwhile, we know that your parents are looking for something to do.  Here are a few avenues for financing a college education to explore.

Financial Aid.  Take a look at the information requested to determine eligibility for federal, state, and institutional aid.

a) All schools that participate in the federal student financial aid programs (loans, grants, and work-study) will ask applicants to complete the FAFSA.  You cannot complete the FAFSA until January 1st of the year that you are applying, however, we recommend that you look at the website now to familiarize yourself with the FAFSA and its requirements.

b) In addition to the FAFSA, some schools ask applicants to complete an additional form– the CSS Profile.  Students and their families can begin to complete this form in the October before they apply to schools.  Individual school deadlines vary, so please take a look at the websites to make sure that you know when you must submit this form.  Remember to put these dates on your deadlines calendar.

c) Look to see which schools offer academic scholarships.  Remember: if your child does not apply to schools that offer academic scholarships, your child will not receive an academic scholarship.

d) Take a look at the insightful and helpful information on  This website is well maintained with lots of information on all types of financial aid.

e) Reseach scholarship opportunities (local, state, and national).