Home & Leisure



Countdown to college: A senior's fall to-do list

Lee Shulman Bierer, Tribune News Service on

Published in Education News

The to-do list for high school seniors seems to be growing longer each day. When they’re not doing homework, participating in their extracurricular activities, hanging with friends, sleeping, eating or texting, here’s what they’re thinking about: their college list, testing, upcoming campus visits, college applications, the Common Application essay, supplemental essays, transcripts, an activity list, letters of recommendation and scholarships.

Are you tired or stressed? Think about how they must feel.

Let’s try to de-stress the situation by creating a fall timeline and breaking each of these bigger tasks into more manageable pieces.

Check them off as you complete them:

— Finalize the college list by making sure it's a balanced list with reach/target/safety schools.

— Include an in-state safety school for financial reasons.

— Review the standardized testing calendar and register for the SAT in October, November or December, or the ACT in October or December.

— Find out if any of the colleges on your list have separate “scholarship deadlines” – they're earlier than the traditional deadlines, and you forfeit your opportunity for scholarship opportunities if you don’t apply by that deadline.

— Check your school’s calendar and take advantage of any teacher work days and schedule campus visits.

— See if any of the colleges you’re considering offer open house dates or discovery days for seniors

— Determine which schools offer Early Action.

— Decide if a binding Early Decision option at one college makes sense.

— Figure out which of the colleges on your final list are on the Common Application and which are not.

— Research the number of essays required or recommended by each college and create a document for each college listing their essay prompts and their deadlines.


— Set up accounts on each college’s website.

— Prepare a timeline of activity based on each college’s deadline.

— Brainstorm essay ideas for colleges with the earliest deadlines first.

— Write a first draft of essays.

— Edit essays and, yes, edit again.

— Ask a trusted source to review your essays.

— Meet with college representatives when they visit your school.

— Review and then order high school transcripts, Find out how your high school is sending transcripts to each college. (Most high schools are now transmitting transcripts electronically.)

— Prepare your résumé/brag sheet/activity list and give it to your recommenders.

— Research which colleges accept letters of recommendation, and find out how many they require and how many they will accept

— Ask teachers, coaches, advisers and employers for letters of recommendation.

— Begin researching scholarship opportunities,

After reading this, I hope all of you parents are now a little more sympathetic to the angst of being a high school senior.

©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



David Fitzsimmons David M. Hitch Daryl Cagle Family Circus Drew Sheneman For Better or For Worse