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15 tips for making the most of your senior year of high school

November 3, 2014 | Ian Richardson


With your senior year approaching the halfway point, you may be wondering where all the time is going. And as you’ve begun to look forward into the future, you may—like many high school seniors—be finding the college selection process intimidating, frustrating or overwhelming.

We know you have many big choices ahead, but we also believe God offers you direction and peace as you follow His calling on your life. Our mission at Evangel is to help you fulfill that calling. Even if you don’t end up coming to Evangel, we hope these 15 tips for your senior year of high school will help you make this year one of your best.

And 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 this semester

Although visiting your top college’s campus sometimes isn’t plausible, we highly recommend doing it if you can. Because no matter how much you read about your potential college choices, a campus visit is the best way to see if the campus feel fits you. A visit will introduce you to real students, let you sit in on a real class, let you eat the food in a real college dining hall and introduce you to the same professors who may be your professors next year.

Some schools, like Evangel, even let you stay overnight in the residence halls. We often hear our students say it was one of these campus visits that made the difference in their final college decision.

campus visit

Schedule college campus visits as early in the year as possible to give you a feel for where you will best fit.

Most schools have priority deadlines for admissions, scholarships and housing, so schedule these visits as soon as possible, preferably this fall.

2. Fill out your applications and submit them in the fall

Applying early and being admitted early ensures that you won’t miss key housing, scholarship and class registration deadlines, says Josh Cincotta, Evangel University’s director of undergraduate admissions. Often fees are lower for early applicants, too. At Evangel, you can apply for free prior to November 15. All students accepted by December 1 also receive a $500 early application scholarship.

“I’ve worked with thousands of students during my time in admissions,” Cincotta says. “For those who applied early, they didn’t have to deal with the stress of deadlines over and over. Throughout the entire process, they were far more relaxed and truly felt like they had options.”

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 by giving yourself plenty of time.

3. Look for scholarships and grants — everywhere

Student loans are helpful, but scholarships and grants are the ideal. That’s because unlike loans, you don’t have to pay them back. And if you look around, you’ll find them everywhere.

Budget a few hours a week to check as many places as you can for scholarships you qualify for. Start with your high school, your church, your community and your potential colleges. Then look for outside scholarships online through websites like fastweb.com, absolutelyscholarship.comcollegescholarships.com and scholarships.com.

Here’s a list of Evangel’s institutional scholarships, and here’s a list we’ve created of a few outside scholarships you may be interested in.

And, now that you have all of these dates bouncing around in your head…

4. Make a calendar to track admissions and scholarship deadlines

As if being on time for your daily life wasn’t hard enough, now you have a list of college application and scholarship deadlines to keep track of too. You don’t want to miss these important dates, so set aside a few minutes now to organize them all in one place. Most college websites should have a list of important dates in the admissions process (Evangel’s key dates are here).

5. Take the ACT or SAT for the first (or second) time

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.”

Higher ACT/SAT scores can also mean more financial aid, as they are one of the major factors that play into eligibility for the Founders and the freshman merit-based scholarship. Read more about those here (http://www.evangel.edu/financial/scholarships/).

6. Prepare for the 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 to save up some money

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 once you arrive at college.

8. Enjoy the here and now

It’s tempting to spend all your time looking toward your future, but don’t let the future distract you from seizing the moments right in front of you. You’ll only be a high school senior once — hopefully — so go make some memories. Make it the most rewarding and enjoyable year you’ve had yet.

9. Spend quality time with your family

Moving away to college can be difficult for new students as well as for the family members that stay behind. With that in mind, take time to enjoy the moments you and your family spend together this year. Even if you might not feel like playing a game with your little sister or going suit-shopping with your dad, try to embrace these experiences. There will be days next year when you will be able to look fondly back upon the new memories you create this year.

10. Try something new

There’s a lot of newness on your horizon, but don’t let that stop you from trying something new right now. Is there a new hobby you’re interested in starting, a club or organization you’ve been meaning to join or someone in your class you’re interested in getting to know better? Do some of those things you’ve always wanted to do. Let this year be one that’s fresh and exciting.

11. Be a mentor

Remember back when you looked up to the seniors because they seemed so old and mature? Whether you realize it or not, someone probably sees you that way right now. 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. Make your senior year count. Be a role model, and maybe even find someone to mentor. Seek God for courage and strength to make a mark for Him and leave a legacy behind you.

12. Get in shape

Chances are you’ve heard of the “Freshman 15”—that infamous period of weight gain many students experience during their first year of college. But that doesn’t have to be you next year. In fact, now’s the time to begin exercising regularly and eating right. It will help you to continue those healthy habits later, once you enter the tempting realm of all-you-can-eat dining hall buffets and 12 a.m. expeditions to Taco Bell.

Find an exercise you enjoy to keep you in shape. Try out for that sport you’ve always wanted to play. Train for that 5K you’ve always dreamed of running. Have fun with it. The benefits of a good diet and exercise will additionally boost your energy and help relieve stress during this time of transition.

13. Put together a resume

If you’ve applied to a couple of colleges or scholarships already, you’ve probably listed your achievements, extracurricular activities and community service involvement more times than you knew was possible. That’s good. Take advantage of having everything already in front of you and put together a resume of your high school experiences. You may need it in order to apply for work-study and student employment jobs in college, and you can then keep updating it and adding to it as you gain more experience.

14. Pray

You don’t need us to tell you that the college search and application process is a big step in your life. You may be facing a lot of uncertainty as it progresses, and that’s O.K. 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 you may not feel 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. You’re not in this alone.

15. Include your parents in the process

Even though this is your college education, remember that you’re not the only one on this journey. Your whole family will be making this college transition, and miscommunication can lead to disappointments and hurt feelings. Share your hopes, dreams and fears with your parents. Let them walk through it with you. Communicating expectations and praying together about the upcoming changes will go a long 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.