As the holiday season approaches, chances are that high school seniors are close to completing their admissions tasks. Many colleges have December deadlines for regular decision, and sometimes colleges have January or even February deadlines. In any case, compared to earlier months in the fall semester, December is a somewhat quieter month in the college admission process for seniors.
However, you'll still want to stay on top of the college admission checklist and remain on track toward your college aspirations.
College Confidential asked Jill Madenberg, independent educational consultant in Lake Success, N.Y., and co-author of Love the Journey to College and Lisa Sohmer, founder of Sohmer College Counseling in Palm Springs, Ca., for their best tips for students for this month. Following is their best advice:
- Schedule a meeting with your school counselor. It's great to start building that relationship now and share your admissions goals if you have created them. You can talk about your classes, clubs and any challenges you are facing, and also discuss which future classes you should take to set you up for your college goals.
- If you have not yet joined a club, sport or extracurricular activity, it's not too late. It's a great way to contribute to school, make friends and have fun.
- Map out a plan for test preparation in the coming months (if you are academically and emotionally ready).
- Schedule a summer diagnostic SAT/ACT to determine which test is better for you.
- If your grades aren't where you want them to be in your existing classes, now is the time to consider finding a tutor or other assistant to help you bring your scores up before the school year ends (assuming you take full-year classes).
- If your high school does block scheduling and your classes are ending soon, ensure that your spring courses are on track with your future plans.
- If you plan to take the Feb. ACT (the test is not given in CA or NY), register as soon as possible. Seats can be difficult to secure in neighboring states.
- Map out a testing plan, if you have not already done so.
- Evaluate your PSAT scores when they come in and see if this drives your test prep plan.
- Prepare for college visits, which you may want to do this spring. Don't put these off until senior year, since you'll be busy with applications then. Check the admissions websites of the colleges on your list to schedule open house visits or tours.
- File any additional college applications before deadline dates. Don't wait until the last minute.
- Keep an eye on your admissions portals to ensure that colleges aren't missing any recommendation letters, test scores or other items.
- If you haven't yet completed your financial aid applications, now is the time to do that.
- If you don't get good news from the colleges where you applied early, start working on your applications for your "Plan B" schools.
December is the time to finish up any college applications for seniors. “Making sure that everything is finished, making sure applications are complete, making sure that the FAFSA has been filed, and CSS profile for those who need it have been filed," says Sohmer.
But even if your applications are not due until January or February, Sohmer advises that students still try to complete their college applications in December.
“I have always recommended that even if their deadlines are later, students should get their applications done before the winter break, because that way they give themselves a chance to relax and regroup and come back to school in January ready to be a student getting ready for exams, and for most kids, finishing the first semester," explains Sohmer.
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