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15 things to do your senior year of high school

October 9, 2013 | Ashli O'Connell

Welcome to your senior year of high school.

For many students, this final year of high school will be exciting, challenging and full of contradictions. It’s a time of looking forward and looking back, a time of celebration and preparation; and, at times, a pressure cooker of paperwork, deadlines and decisions.

We know you have many big decisions ahead and that the process can be a little intimidating. But we also believe God offers you direction and peace as you follow His calling on your life. At Evangel, we desire to help you find and fulfill that calling. Whether or not your future is with us, we hope this list of things to do your senior year of high school will be helpful to you as you navigate the process.

If at any point we can help you along the way, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

1. Narrow your list of college choices to two or three and schedule campus visits early in the school year.

While visiting your top college choices isn’t always practical – and not necessarily required – it is worth the effort to make it happen if you can. A campus visit is the best way to decide whether or not a school is right for you. You can meet real students, attend a class, eat in the dining hall and generally try it on and see if it fits. Some schools, like Evangel, even let you stay overnight in the residence halls. Many students say it was a campus visit that made the difference in their final college decision.

campus visit

Schedule college visits during the fall if possible.

Most schools have priority deadlines for admissions, scholarships and housing, so schedule these visits as early in the year as possible. And speaking of deadlines …

2. Make a calendar with admissions and scholarship deadlines.

Keeping track of homework and extracurricular schedules is hard enough, and now you have a lot more to think about. The one thing you can be sure about this year is that you can’t afford to let key college deadlines pass you by. Most college websites should have a list of important dates in the admissions process (Evangel’s key dates are here), so take a few hours early in the year to get them all written down in one place.

3. Take the ACT or SAT (twice).

Ideally, you took the ACT or SAT during the spring of your junior year. If not, schedule it right away. Even if you did take it last year, there’s good reason to take it again this fall. “Your chances of getting scholarships increases with a higher ACT or SAT score,” says Evangel Admissions Counselor Jon Jenkins. “So, even though it isn’t fun to take those tests, there is no question that the higher you score, the better your scholarship potential is.”

Jenkins, who works with prospective student athletes, also reminds students who want to play on an athletic scholarship that eligibility is tied to ACT/SAT score, GPA and class rank. “If any of those is lacking, do your best to improve them.”

4. Finalize admission applications and submit in the fall.

There are many advantages to early acceptance, including priority housing and better scholarship opportunities, says Brittney Grantham, Evangel University’s director of undergraduate admissions. Often fees are lower for early applicants, too. When it comes to decision time, you don’t want to be scrambling to find schools that are still accepting applications. Give yourself plenty of options.

5. Seek out and apply for scholarships everywhere.

When it comes to financial aid, scholarships and grants are the jackpot. Unlike student loans, you don’t have to pay them back. And the good news is: They’re everywhere. Sometimes you just have to look for them.

Set aside some time each week to check as many places as you can for possible scholarships, then start applying. What scholarships does your high school offer? How about your church? Your community? Search for other outside scholarships online through websites like fastweb.com, absolutelyscholarship.com, collegescholarships.com and scholarships.com.

In addition, check out what scholarships your potential colleges offer and apply for them. Here is a list of Evangel’s institutional scholarships, and here’s one we’ve compiled of outside scholarships you may be interested in.

6. Start thinking FAFSA now.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid uses a formula to figure out how much financial aid you qualify for. Evangel requires all students to fill out and submit the FAFSA in order to figure out each individual students’ award letter. For more information, check out the FAFSA website. The FAFSA opens January 1, so what can you do to prepare in the meantime? Here are a couple hints that will help the process go more smoothly:

  • Sign up for a PIN to complete your FAFSA online. (Also let your parents know that they will need a PIN.)
  • Encourage your parents to file their taxes as soon as possible after January 1. This makes it easier to complete the FAFSA and work through the financial aid process.

7. Work a part-time job.

When it comes to paying for college, every little bit helps. If your schedule allows, try to find a job to help you build up some money and get some valuable work experience. Even if you can only work a little bit, you’ll be thankful you have that extra cash to put toward tuition or to use as spending money in college.

8. Mentor a younger student.

Remember those high school seniors you used to look up to a few years ago? Now’s your chance to be that person for someone else. Take the opportunity to build some positive relationships with those who are younger than you and to be a role model for them. Whether you’re on the football field, in the classroom or at your church, you just might be surprised who’s watching you, and you never know how much of an impact you could make on their life.

9. Make a difference in your high school.

As your thoughts and plans become more and more focused on next year, remember that you still have work to do where you are now. You are a senior. You are a leader. God has called you to be where you are “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Don’t try to fast-forward to college. Instead, make your senior year count. Seek God for courage and strength to make a mark for Him and leave a legacy behind you.

10. Enjoy the here and now.

With college on the horizon, it’s easy to become far-sighted during your final months of high school. That’s why you should be careful to not miss the amazing moments sitting right in front of you. Your senior year can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable years you’ve had yet. Enjoy the special times and opportunities that will surround you. You’ll only be a high school senior once — hopefully — so get out there an make some memories.

11. Spend quality time with your family.

You likely won’t be seeing your family as often once you move off to college, and many college freshmen are surprised by how difficult this turns out to be. When your little sister wants you to play a game of Sorry with her or your parents suggest a trip out for ice cream, say yes and cherish the time spent with them. There will be days next year when you will wish you had the opportunity to enjoy those kinds of moments together.

12. Register to vote.

You might be thinking, “What? I’m old enough to do that?” And the answer is, “Yes, you are.” And you should.

Once you turn 18 (17 in some states), take advantage of your opportunity — and responsibility — to become a more active citizen and to let your input count. Also, consider that if you leave state for college, you may want to vote via absentee ballot at home. Making arrangements for this before you leave will make it much easier.

Voter registration guidelines vary by state. You can find more information here.

13. Get in shape.

You’ve probably heard of the “Freshman 15” (an expression that refers to the weight most students gain in their first year of college). Well, now’s as good a time as any to start preventing it. Building a habit of exercising regularly and eating right prior to college will help you stay with it once you enter the world of all-you-can eat dining hall buffets and the temptation of late-night food runs is a reality. Find an activity you enjoy doing to help you stay in shape. Maybe even try out for a sport you’ve always wanted to play. Have fun with it. You’ll also reap the added benefits of stress relief and added energy to fuel you through your senior year.

 14. Pray.

The college search and application process is a big step in your life, and you might be facing a lot of uncertainty as it progresses. But that’s OK. We at Evangel believe that if you continue to seek God’s will for your life and trust in His guidance, He will continue to lead you in the right direction — even if don’t realize it at the time. If you haven’t already, consciously set aside some time each day to spend with God in prayer about your future.

15. Include your parents in the process.

Choosing your college is one of the first, and biggest, adult decisions you will make. It’s good to take the responsibility seriously, but don’t take it all on yourself. Communicate your hopes, dreams and fears to your parents and let them walk through it with you. This is a major time of transition for the whole family, and miscommunication can lead to disappointments and hurt feelings. Communicating expectations and praying together about the upcoming changes will go along way toward making this a smooth transition for everyone.

Enjoy your senior year, and please contact us if there is anything Evangel University can do to help you in your college search. We know that God has an incredible plan for your life, and we are excited for your future.

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