Get Educated About Your Education: Senior Edition

Katie Carter, Staff Writer

Senior promises one of the best years of people’s lives: prom, top of the school, last homecoming and just the whole glory of being a senior. However, it also promises one of the most influential years on the future: where to apply, when to apply, how to apply and then later where to accept, where to live, what to study. Senior year is when we start answering those questions and asking a few more.

“[At this point in the senior year students] should be applying. They should’ve requested a transcript to be sent. By now they should’ve taken the SAT or ACT at least once and are either planning on retaking it or are happy with their scores and are submitting them to schools,” the head guidance counselor Summer Martin said.

Students should start considering their options and begin to narrow down which schools they want to apply to.

“You need at least two: one that you really want to go to and one as a backup. But most students do three to five. The way I look at it is you want the doors to shut on you, not you shut the doors. If you don’t apply and the deadline has passed you have lost the option to go to that school. So I say you should apply to three or five and see what happens,” Martin advised.

One of the first puzzling aspects of applications is early decision or early action. Early decision is the binding option that commits the student to that school. If a student was unable to attend legal action could be taken against them. Early action is a non-binding way to find out where you are accepted.

“Early action is good because then you know. They will look at your application and give you an answer. Early action is always good because it is one less thing to worry about. But if you are on the bubble and maybe aren’t happy with your SAT or ACT scores you may not want to do early action,” Martin said.

There is no one score that students should aim for so students need to look at what colleges accept and aim for that, even if they have to take the tests multiple times.

“Seniors really need to start wrapping up the SAT and ACT this fall. They can take it again in the spring for scholarships,” Martin said.

Everyone hopes for a coveted scholarship to help relieve the ever-increasing college tuition. Luckily, with the increasing cost of college the pool of scholarships also increases.

“A lot becomes available in the spring. You can still get lots of scholarships when you are in college, people forget about that. Especially, when you declare a major, that major will have scholarships just for those students. You want to talk to the scholarship counselor at that university and make sure you are in the freshman pool for all of the big scholarships.”

Students also have a lot of online venues to find scholarships such as the guidance counselor consultant, fast web and scholarship experts. However, the bulk of the scholarships will come from the university itself. Students also apply for financial aid to help alleviate the burden of tuition.

“You go online to fafsa.ed.gov and your parents have to do it because it is based on the 2013 taxes and they won’t even be able do it until January of 2014. They take their W2 information and fill out the FAFSA report,” Martin informed.

Colleges occasionally request recommendation letters to accompany applications but it becomes an even higher priority for scholarships.

“If the school is asking for them then they should probably get three. One from a counselor, one from a teacher and then the other should be from a coach, a youth pastor or another teacher. But the important thing to remember is, if they don’t ask for one don’t send them because they won’t read them,” Martin said.

Students can ask their counselor for a recommendation letter by filling out the student profile packet, found in the counselors’ office.

“We take the information and we write a letter of recommendation based on it. We can give you a copy of the letter, we can email it to you, or we can upload it to your application,” Martin said.

The better the information is the better the letter is. So replying in one sentence answers won’t provide enough information. And the same goes for teacher recommendations; however it is best if students plan to send in the letters themselves.

“I recommend that the student gets it from the teacher and mail it themselves that way they know it is done and when it was sent. If you let your teacher send it then you might not know when it was mailed,” Martin said.

If the college receives the letter late it can cause issues. Deadlines are not extended and if a component of your application came late it can hinder your application being considered.

“Whenever they get a new piece of information on it they create a file that has your name on it. Once that whole folder is put together with all of the components it goes in a stack to be evaluated in whatever order it is received,” Martin explained. “As soon as they get another piece of paper that has your name on it, your file gets put at the bottom of the stack. So that is another reason why you don’t want to send in more information than needed.”

Once students finish their application, the fee to submit the application, send their test scores, transcript and if they have to they to go ahead and write their essays. Once the application process is done the next step is choosing a school.

“They really need to think about the best fit for them. What the colleges are looking for is the best fit for them,” Martin said. “Then they need to let the schools know what their decision is by May 1st.”