Everything You Need to Know for Your Senior Year!

Senior year might seem daunting, but do not fear, I will show you how to prepare and what to expect!

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If you have clicked on this article, you are probably a junior who is scrambling to prepare for the stress-evoking, college-filled school year that is your senior year. And while that is understandable as I was that junior last year, just take a moment to relax.

Senior year is not as scary as it seems, and there are ways to prepare that can make your last year of high school one full of memories instead of late nights finishing college applications or completing 10 missing assignments.

In order to help you, I will share my experience going through the college application process and give tips as to how to prepare. In addition, I will go over the senior classes that will be available to you and let you decide which teachers have won you over as to what classes to take.

College Application Process

Start early. START EARLY! Juniors, write that down!

My TL;DR checklist:

  • Do your research on colleges and different areas of study
  • Fill out the basic information in the CommonApp
  • Write your CommonApp and supplemental essays
  • Keep up with deadlines
  • Request Transcripts
  • Request recommendations
  • Research and apply to scholarships
  • Complete the FASFA and CSS Profile (opens Oct. 1st)
  • Send SAT, ACT, and AP scores (may be optional, check with specific colleges)

General Advice

Starting early will allow you to have enough time to tackle new and time-consuming aspects of the college application process that you previously did not know about but are required to fulfill.

The CommonApp allows students to begin applying to colleges on August 1st and I would suggest filling out your basic information and writing your CommonApp essay throughout the last month you have left before school starts.

Now, you probably have decided on what colleges you are applying to and what your general interests are (if not, take some time researching colleges and areas of study), so what’s next? Well, depending on the college, you may have supplemental essays specific to each college that you have to complete, in addition to the CommonApp essay. These can also be time-consuming, so this is where starting early comes in. Furthermore, there are 3 ways (depending on the college) you can apply to colleges: regular decision, early action, and early decision.

Regular Decision: Implied by the name, this is the “regular” way of applying. The deadline for your application will typically be much later, but the downside is that you receive your decision letter much later in comparison to early action and early decision applicants.

Early Action: This application allows you to show that you are interested in a specific college and could mean consideration for certain scholarships that are not available for regular decision applicants.

Early Decision: This is similar to early action, however, early decision is binding. Thus, if you get into a college through early decision then you have to go to that college, with nearly no exceptions to this rule.

Aside from this, you may also need teacher recommendations and a counselor recommendation, so make sure to do research on the colleges you plan on applying to so you can request a recommendation in a timely manner. You usually have to request these 2-3 weeks prior to the deadline.

Finances 

As for financing higher education, complete the FASFA as soon as it is October 1st! FASFA is basically free money from the government based on your financial situation. It is crucial to complete this early as college can be very expensive and being in debt after college isn’t pretty.

Something else that you may have not heard about but is also very important is the CSS Profile (found on the College Board website). I didn’t know about it until much later and had to rush to complete it.

The CSS Profile is only required if you are applying to a private college, however, it lays out your financial situation for a college and can help colleges determine how much money to give you based on your situation. This differs from the FASFA as the money is coming from a specific college instead of the government.

Also, scholarships are a no-brainer and can be sought out for right now during your junior year. I would recommend applying to local scholarships, as they are less competitive and more attainable than national scholarships. To find scholarships, talk to your counselor or do some research on your own.

Reminder, sending college applications in itself is pretty expensive if you don’t have a fee waiver, so make sure to consider that when thinking about applying to 5+ colleges. Talk to your counselor about fee waivers. A single application to one college might cost around $70 so sending AP scores, the CSS profile, or anything else from the College Board to a college will cost you more money.

Senior Classes 

Besides the college application process, there are various senior classes that Hylton offers. In talking to the teachers, they pitched their classes to rising seniors.

Mrs. Wilson (AP Calculus BC):

“A basic reason [to take AP Calculus BC] is it shows that you are willing to challenge yourself which makes you a more appealing student candidate for college. [Calculus] is the building block for engineering so if you are interested in being like a computer programmer or a gaming programmer…all of that really just starts with math strength in college…and you learn how to follow a sequential process to solve a difficult problem.”

Ms. Ziemke (AP Environmental Science):

“I think our world is facing some really big environmental problems, and global warming is one. But we are also going to run out of water in many places because our population keeps growing…and everyone wants to have a house and a new place to shop but all of that has environmental consequences…I think we need to be good citizens and take that to our vote…and if you are going to vote, and you think about your beliefs on the environment and what you want and what you deserve….then I think this class is really good, it’s my guilt class!”

Mrs. Nelson (AP English Literature):

“What you need to do is look at where you want to go to college. If you are looking to go to any place like the University of Virginia or higher, you want to take the most rigorous course that you can, and they consider AP to be the most rigorous course for English…and I think that dual enrollment is an excellent choice for a lot of kids because you get the credit and its paid for by the school. However, AP Literature runs your critical thinking skills, and you learn how to write well to prompts, you learn how to dissect literature and you learn how to love literature.”

Mr. Brown (Dual Enrollment):

“I feel like Dual Enrollment gives [seniors] their last chance in high school to really explore subjects of their interest with some of the free form essays that I offer while other courses are more strict to the study of English literature.”

Mr. Fox (AP Psychology):

“Your last year you are going to graduate and then life gets really different. Psychology helps us understand how to mitigate the stress that we have in our lives and prevents us from doing anything crazy or stupid like getting a million piercings. So, for seniors, it is a roadmap for a healthy life or if you want to go into a health profession or career, [AP Psychology] gives you a preview.”

Mrs. Terenchin (AP Comparative Government):

“AP COGO allows students to have the opportunity to look at governments outside of the United States. And when you look at the different governments, their different structures, different leaders…I think it makes you a better U.S. citizen…it gives you the opportunity to learn about different countries like China, Russia, and Iran that are frequently in opposition to the United States…and countries that are recovering from colonialism and imperialism like Mexico and Nigeria…the last thing I would say is that AP COGO teaches you a little bit of everything…you get exposed to so many things that you might not get exposed to if taking a different government course.”

Mr. Brown (Criminal Justice):

“I think it is a very informative class. Pretty soon, juniors will be entering the adult world. And the biggest thing I want kids to take from this class is, if this is a profession that they are interested in, learning the ins and outs about [criminal justice] and more importantly, knowing what your rights are, and what the laws are…understanding from a first-hand account from somebody’s that’s been in that profession what is actually real and what is not and [separating] what we may see on TV.”

Final Advice from Seniors

I hope this article has been helpful and has eased some of your stress. To end off, I talked to some seniors as to what advice they would give to juniors, and here is what they said.

Kayla Le:

“I would say to start your FASFA immediately when it opens on October 1st because the earlier you start the more money you will receive and just keep in touch with your counselors…also, I really like AP COGO with Mrs. Terenchin. She makes the whole lesson really easy and understandable, and the relationship she has with us is really, really good. And, I would say [to take] AP Literature because Mrs. Nelson is really good and the class goes by really quick.”

Sofia Simonian:

“I would say definitely start your college applications early and look at what kinds of essays the colleges that you are applying to require because you can start the shorter essays [supplemental essays] in the summer even if you don’t know what your main essay [CommonApp essay] is going to be about. My favorite classes right now are AP COGO, AP Psych, and Dual Enrollment. They all have really good teachers, the coursework isn’t that hard, and you learn a lot.”

Jeremiah Gonzalez:

“Plan ahead, know where you wanna go and pay attention to deadlines. Also, AP COGO with Mrs. Terenchin is the best class ever! But don’t bum-rush your whole schedule with AP classes because you don’t want to get overwhelmed your last year, but just overall make sure that your grades are up.”

Megan Richert:

“My advice for juniors who want to take AP Calculus AB is to be prepared to potentially not understand concepts at first because it is somewhat like a foreign language. Sometimes you may have to put in the work and get extra help to grasp a concept…the concepts are hard, and I often find myself watching videos outside of class to gain a better understanding. Overall, this class is worth taking, but if you are looking to have a stress-free senior year, I would not recommend taking AP Calculus AB.”

Linh Luc:

“Do your own research, and if you want merit scholarships or a lot of financial aid money,  you have to apply in October, November, or December [of your senior year]. And don’t blame people if you don’t get in or don’t blame counseling because college is for you, and you need to take care of your own future.”