The Senior Year

Things You Should Know and Do During Your Senior Year

The senior year is the best of times and the worst of times.

That might be a little bit of a stretch; that sentence is really an allusion to the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. This subtle reference is the sort of thing you may be expected to recognize as a college student.

The senior year does resemble a sort of double-duty function. It is a time when you should celebrate your accomplishments, but it's also a time when you have to work hard to prepare for your future.

One way to be prepared is to recognize how college studies will differ from high school studies. The other way to prepare is to tie up loose ends when it comes to college and financial aid applications.

Study Tips for Seniors

  1. Improve your note-taking skills.
    College lectures cover a lot of information and sometimes the lectures go at a fast speed. Develop your own form of shorthand and speed writing.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the library.
    You'll be expected to do more thorough research than ever before in college. You'll need to discover how to find journal articles, government reports, and maybe even primary sources at some point.
  3. Exercise critical reading skills.
    In college you will not only use more sources than ever before, but you'll also learn to analyze those sources. Learn to read with a critical eye.
  4. Practice reading difficult books and chapters.
    You may get a big surprise when you open one of your college text books. Some are written in a language and style much like the texts you use in high school. Some are not. Many college texts are written by academics who use pretty advanced vocabularies and propose pretty complicated theories and concepts. Be aware of this, but don't panic about it. All you have to do is learn how to divide and conquer the reading.
  1. Learn to use Microsoft Word or another word processor.
    You will have to write research papers on a more frequent basis than before. Things like footnotes and bibliographies should become second nature.

College Prep Tips for Seniors

You should complete the college application process in a timely manner by creating a personal admission calendar countdown.

Your specific time line will depend on your college of choice. As a general rule, you should apply to the most competitive colleges as early as possible, sometime in the fall months. Community colleges and technical college applications normally go out a little later, at some point in the winter months.

  1. Follow Through with Financial Aid
    If you are planning to use some sort of financial aid such as loans, grants, or even scholarships, you should complete a lot of financial aid paperwork. This starts with the FAFSA, which is a federal-level form which establishes a file for you within the federal government system, but it doesn't end there! Each college has its own paperwork that establishes a file within that particular college.

    Each year, some students face a big surprise on move-in day, when they realize that their financial aid application is not complete. Students may complete some of the steps and believe they have done everything necessary-when, in fact, they have not.

    Once you believe you have done everything necessary when it comes to applying for financial aid, follow through with a phone call to a counselor. Ask them exactly where you stand and whether there will be a balance due on move-in day.

  1. Senior Year and College Mail

    During your senior year you will be bombarded with college recruitment mail. At first this is flattering, but eventually it becomes annoying. The problem is, students start to throw away everything when they become overwhelmed. This can be a big mistake!

    Once in awhile, some colleges will mail out information about scholarship opportunities that you hadn't expected and hadn't applied for. Small private colleges often do this. Why miss out on a great opportunity? Take the time to open your mail and do a quick evaluation before trashing it.