Procrastinating College Planners

Are you familiar with the term “senioritis”? In its most common form, senioritis takes place in high school seniors who have already been accepted to and enrolled in a college. This feeling of a secure academic future can lull seniors into a false sense of “I’ve got it made now!” Consequently, they tend to back off academically and cruise on their laurels. The disturbing and inevitable result is a less-than-stellar finish to the senior year. Thus, when their year-end reports go in to the colleges where they have enrolled, this academic slide is duly noted and in the worst cases results in the rescinding of that college’s acceptance. Obviously, this is not what you rising seniors want to happen to you.

The College Confidential discussion forum has numerous threads along the lines of “Will my acceptance be revoked?” I’m always surprised every late spring and summer when I see these threads because it’s fairly common knowledge that colleges don’t like to see students they have accepted and enrolled suddenly getting Cs and maybe Ds when before they were solid B+ and A students. I’m pretty sure that all of you — well, maybe nearly all of you — reading this know better than to slack off, grade-wise. However, what about putting off (shall we also say “slacking off”?) your college admissions planning?

In other articles here on College Confidential, I’ve discussed college planning for rising juniors. But what if you didn’t do any college planning as a junior and now you’re a senior? Well, here is some advice about that.

Waiting until the senior year to start the college search process complicates matters but it is not an unworkable situation. The keys are research and communications with guidance counselors and family members.

Seniors must select at least three likely college choices. Leading up to the selection of the three choices should be a process of profile matching. Seniors should also carefully review the schools’ entrance requirements and make sure there is a reasonable match. It makes no sense to apply to a college or university whose entrance requirements far exceed your academic record. Use common sense when conducting your college search.

Cost always has to be a consideration. One thing you should do after you make your candidate list is to call the schools’ financial aid offices and ask for written information about their financial aid programs. Even if your family’s initial reaction is, “There’s no possible way we can afford that!” don’t abandon ship. You may be very surprised by the multitude of creative plans available that can help you manage the seemingly impossible cost of higher education.

After you have found that you meet the standards of your candidate schools and you feel there is a reasonable opportunity to pay for them, you’ll have to make a formal application. Most schools have definite application deadlines. Pay attention to them. Even though some schools will still accept an application a day or two past deadline, don’t tempt fate. Usually, you’ll receive an application along with the school’s promotional materials.

Read the application instructions carefully, even if you’re using the Common Application. This is where your counselor can be a big help. You may need teacher recommendations or have to write a personal statement (known as The Essay). Your official transcript should be sent in through your counselor’s office. Make certain that all details are taken care of. Extra attention to details here will pay off later. If you are uncertain how to approach a particular section of the application, ask your counselor and read a good book or article that addresses that area.

Your parents will be involved in the financial aid application process. There are many details involved with financial aid. Take advantage of all the help you can get. Most of all, don’t be late avoiding early senioritis!