Gema is an 18-year old from Miami, FL. She loves reading and writing young adult fiction and claims to pass out in the presence of sterile wit.
Senior Year is shadowed by the looming fact that high school will be over in a few short months and a whole new life will begin after graduation. It’s not all bad. Some highlights of the year include “Grad Nite”, prom, and all the senior activities/trips provided by the school.. Most teen movies concentrate on these fun aspects and tend to overlook the one component that makes senior year a stressful time: the application process. In movies, a teen picks a college, sends in an application, prays really hard and is accepted. Then there’s a TWO MONTHS LATER slide and the same teen is lounging in his dorm room and waiting for the next four years with a smile on his face. Beware seniors; it will not be this easy and certainly not this quick.
What a lot of teens don’t know is that in order to get into a good university, they need to start early. College Assistance Counselors may be able to help you with certain steps, such as informing you about a college fair or letting you know if you’re eligible for a fee waiver, but they are not a college encyclopedia. They don’t know every detail about every college and for the most part- they are not going to sit down and help you with a stack of college applications. My senior class did not comprehend this and one day, a counselor walked into our English class and asked us how many colleges we had applied to. Everybody was dumbfounded. They expected the counselor to bring them applications and tell them when to hand it to her by. Applying to college is the first step to independence. You have to do the research, you have to download the applications, you have to fill them out and you have to make the decisions. The hand holding stops at the beginning of senior year, not at graduation. Because of this and of the reasons I will now explain, the application process must begin immediately.
Universities are not like middle school or high schools. You may have a diploma but they don’t have to accept you (unless it’s a community college.) Each has a list of pre-requisites that applicants need to meet for consideration. If you apply at the last minute, you might not have what they need. For example, a school may require three years of a foreign language but you only have two. If you catch this early enough, you’ll be able to change your schedule in time and earn the credit. Imagine trying to earn a credit two months before graduation!
For the most parts, this is the first time teens deal with deadlines. Sure, teachers had their due dates for projects and presentations, but the consequence for missing them were usually a lower grade. The consequence for missing a university’s application deadline includes blocking out a path to your entire future.
There are many different types of deadlines. Early Action deadlines are usually around November and not all schools provide them. The students that apply for early action usually receive preference and an acceptance/rejection letter earlier than regular admission. This gives the students more time to decide. There is the regular admissions’ deadline which varies from December to maybe March- it always depends on the university.
It is important to realize that when a university declares a deadline, they don’t always just mean for the application. It’s usually the deadline for everything needed for consideration: high school transcripts, SAT and/or ACT scores, recommendation letters, etc. Keep in mind that transcripts might take weeks to process, teachers don’t have to write you recommendation letters and don’t appreciate being rushed once they’ve agreed to do the favor, and sending an SAT/ACT score might take several days to even weeks.
Something I can’t stress enough is to keep deadlines in mind. Write them on your agenda, scribble it on post-its or write it backwards on your forehead with permanent marker so you’ll see it in the mirror. DON’T miss a deadline. Doing so tells the admission officers that you’re not serious about a higher education in their institution.
Let’s face it; one year of college can cost the equivalent or more to a down payment for a new house. This is not an exaggeration. From the schools I was accepted to, a private university was $37,000, a public one was about $12,000 and the community college was about $2,000. These costs are per year and only for the tuition. Additional expenses include: dorm rooms, books, food, etc. Right now, senior girls might want to unsubscribe to their fashion magazines and shop in the clearance rack for a prom dress. There are a lot of bills in your future. Applying to college early allows for the student to receive their financial aid award (if applicable) earlier, which will give the student time to calculate how much is needed to make up the difference. Also, the student will be able to find out about scholarships they can apply for. I have a friend who received a full scholarship to the University of Miami. Before he knew about this scholarship, however, he spent the end of junior year and all of senior year applying for every scholarship and grant that he could find. With his tuition, dorm and books paid in full, he has a surplus of $30,000. This is because he started early.
I think this last reason is the most important. Every decision counts now. Where you decide to go to college will probably determine where you’re later employed. The decision will affect your entire life. It is crucial to have options opened. You don’t want to end up going to a community college just because you missed a university’s deadline or because it would’ve been impossible to pay or get a loan for x and/or y reason. There are many things to look into when deciding where you’re going to attend: school’s success rate, cost, environment, majors- most of these are opinions that can change from September to June. Your goal should be to reach a day near the end of the school year when you’ll clear the coffee table with your parents and lay out all of your acceptance letters, financial aid awards and brochures and make a solid decision. This will be the day the entire world will lay ahead of you.
Applying to college is a big deal. It may cause sleepless nights and spit from licking stamps, but it’s worth it. Senior year is not all about prom or “Grad Nite”, it’s about taking action to mold your future. Certainly not something we want to do in haste.
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