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Your Guide to 12th Grade Success
We won’t sugarcoat it—your senior year is going to be busy. You will face college applications, scholarship essays, financial aid information, and numerous other deadlines while continuing to juggle challenging classwork and the culmination of many extracurricular and social activities.
In order to finish your high school career on a high note, you’ll need to plan ahead and stay organized. Meeting deadlines, anticipating commitments, and keeping your school work under wraps will be top priorities. In this post, we’ll outline some of the key commitments and deadlines that you can expect during your senior year.
For our free, senior year planning calendar for high school, keep reading.
1. Research scholarships. Create a list of ongoing scholarships and important deadlines to keep in mind throughout the year. Many scholarships have deadlines as early as October and November.
2. Consider your career plans and professional ambitions. Decide which type of college or postsecondary education program makes the most sense for you. If you’re not sure, these posts might help you get started:
3. Review the SAT and ACT calendars. Make a testing plan for your senior year. See these posts for ideas:
4. Look over the essay prompts for the Common Application and any supplementary applications you may need to submit. Begin to brainstorm essay topics. For some inspiration, check out our posts What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay? and Where to Begin? 3 Personal Essay Brainstorming Exercises.
5. Create a filing system with a folder for each of the schools that interests you, if you have not already.
6. Narrow down your college list. For tips on how to fine-tune the list of schools you’ll apply to, check out our posts 10 Considerations For Making Your College List and Seven Tips for Creating Your College List.
7. Request admissions information and college materials from any new schools on your college list.
8. Continue to research and compare costs of possible college programs via their websites.
1. Request applications from any colleges on your list that do not have online applications. (This is very rare these days, but it’s still worth checking just to be sure.)
2. Be sure that your calendar is up to date and includes all major registration, admissions, and financial aid deadlines and fees, along with deadlines for any outstanding standardized tests.
3. Begin writing drafts of your college essays. Consider using a service like CollegeVine’s Essay Review to help you along the way.
4. If you are applying early decision anywhere, start to work on your application in earnest.
5. Confirm your letters of recommendations. We at CollegeVine recommend requesting these during the spring of your junior year, but if you have not requested them yet, this is the time to do so. For more information about getting great letters of recommendation, don’t miss our post How to Get College Recommendation Letters: Building Recommender Relationships.
6. Learn more about the colleges on your college list by attending college fairs, taking virtual tours of college campuses, meeting with admissions representatives who visit your school, and networking to connect with current students or alums.
7. Set up your Federal Student Aid ID and start gathering information so you can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as October 1. For more information about FAFSA, see our posts The Ultimate Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA and How Do I Take Out a Federal Direct Student Loan?.
8. Send SAT/ACT and SAT Subject Test scores to all early action schools unless you are taking October ACT or November SAT.
9. Set up an appointment with your guidance counselor to develop a college admission and financial aid application plan together.
10. Review scholarships and apply to all that you’re eligible for. Stay on top of these deadlines; they are often earlier than anticipated.
1. Complete your FAFSA online to determine your financial aid eligibility. When it arrives, review your Student Aid Report for errors and make any corrections as indicated. Anticipate the financial ramifications to your college applications. Check out Understanding College Costs: FAQs About Financial Aid in Practice to learn more.
2. If you have not done so already, try to visit your top school choices. Meet with faculty, staff, and students if possible.
3. Finalize any supplementary application materials like portfolios, audition tapes, or writing samples. If you’re not sure whether to submit them, have a look at our post How to Quantify Your Achievements in the Visual and Performing Arts.
4. Complete all application materials for Early Action or Early Decision applications. Most ED-1 applications are due between November 1 and November 15.
1. Follow up to ensure your employers, teachers, or guidance counselors send the letters of recommendation that you’ve requested.
2. Confirm teacher recommendations for regular and ED-II applications.
3. Take note of the registration deadlines for your final chance to retake your SAT or ACT. SAT and ACT administrations in early December will be your last chance for SAT and ACT scores to reach schools for ED-II and regular application deadlines.
1. Finalize all regular decision admissions applications and make sure all are submitted on time. Typical Regular Decision Application deadlines are between January 1 and February 1.
2. By December 15, send SAT/ACT and SAT Subject Test scores to all regular or ED-II schools and complete all steps for your high school to send your transcript to all regular or ED-II schools.
3. By mid-December, ED-I decisions are released. Adjust your plans accordingly if you have applied ED-1. Our post Focusing on Your Second and Third Choice College Applications might be helpful if your first choice has fallen through.
4. Stay on top of senioritis. Remember that your grades and achievements during this final year do matter and you want to finish strong!
1. Review the deadlines for potential summer programs of interest. Start planning now, as many have deadlines as early as January or February. See Your Ultimate Guide to Summer Programs for High Schoolers to learn more.
2. Confirm that your school sends mid-year reports to all regular decision schools that require them. These should typically be sent by February 7.
1. By mid-February, ED-II decisions are released. Adjust your plans accordingly if you have applied ED-II.
2. Finalize and submit FAFSA and CSS Profiles by February 20.
3. Before March 1, confirm AP registration with AP teachers, or discuss registration with AP coordinators if you are planning to self-study. Also check the AP calendar for any potential exam conflicts. Speak with your school’s AP coordinator to coordinate a late-testing date if necessary. See How to Register for AP Exams (Even If You Didn’t Take the Class) to learn more.
1. Most regular application decisions are released between mid-March and early-April. It’s hard to wait patiently, but rest assured that you’re alone!
1. Write waitlist letter and secure waitlist recommendation if applicable. Learn more about this in our post Deferred or Waitlisted: Tips for Writing A Letter of Continued Interest.
2. By May 1, finalize your college choice or your decision to take a gap year. Check out these posts to help:
1. Take AP exams.
2. Finish the year strong! For some inspiration, check out our post Seniors – Why You Need to Make the Most Out of 2nd Semester.
For more insight, consider CollegeVine’s Application Guidance Program, which pairs you with the perfect admissions specialist based on your current profile and aspirations. You’ll find support for every aspect of the application process, from creating a school list to preparing for interviews.
For more about applying to college, see these CollegeVine posts: