SAT and Admissions Timeline - Senior Year

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You're the tops! Top dog, top of the totem pole, top banana, top of the food chain. You've worked hard to get here, and now you get to enjoy the rewards that come with senior year, such as increased independence and more flexible rules and routines. But beware of an early onset of "senioritis" which can affect your college applications. The senior year is a busy and critical time, and you must stay in top form during the admissions process. PowerScore's month-by-month timeline can help you meet every deadline during this all-important year.

September

You must begin the year by meeting with your counselor. Discuss your course load, making sure that your classes are considered challenging on college applications, and revisit your transcript to make sure you will accumulate the required credits for graduation. Review your spring SAT scores to decide if you should retake the test this fall. Examine your narrowed list of colleges to which you plan to apply and ask advice on each school's application process. Your counselor will also have a list of questions for you about colleges and careers.

By now you should have received information packets and applications from all of the colleges you contacted during your junior year. Most schools prefer that you apply online. Because your online application can be saved, begin entering information now to avoid rushing at the last minute. You can add or change information before final submission. Record deadlines for each school's application and highlight those deadlines on your calendar.

Most college and scholarship applications require letters of recommendation. Ask your references now. Teachers, counselors, and principals can conceivably write hundreds of these each year, so you need to give them sufficient notice to meet your deadlines. You can also ask employers, pastors, or prominent citizens that have known you for several years. Check each college's application to learn its requirements for each letter and each reference.

Nearly all college and scholarship applications require one or more essay responses. Some applications ask specific questions, such as "Describe your favorite course," while others are more broad, such as "Describe a personal quality you will bring to our school." Save a copy of each essay you submit, and adapt it to another college's application or to a scholarship essay. Because writing essays can be time-consuming, start these in September to ensure your application is ready to go by its deadline.

Students requesting federal financial aid will not apply until January. However, most colleges award their own financial aid in addition to the federal aid. In September, contact the financial aid office at each college to which you are applying to learn the process for requesting school-sponsored aid. You should also complete a CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE from College Board. Many universities that are members of the College Board use this service to award nonfederal financial aid to incoming freshmen.

If you are planning to participate in athletics at a NCAA Division I or Division II school, you have to meet academic eligibility requirements. To be cleared for eligibility, complete an application for the NCAA Clearinghouse, the organization that monitors student/athlete academic compliance. There is no deadline for submission, but you must be approved prior to participating in your sport. Your counselor will need to submit several forms with your transcript, so we recommend starting this process in September.

If you need to take the SAT again, you have three more chances; the test is given in October, November, and December. Sign up now to ensure available space and avoid late fees. PowerScore offers several options for preparing for these fall tests. Visit our PowerScore SAT Course Page to learn more.

October

If needed, take the SAT and/or ACT again.

Continue chipping away at your online applications and essay responses. Follow up with your references to ensure they mailed your letters of recommendation.

Visit your guidance office to arrange the shipment of your transcripts and test scores to the colleges to which you are applying.

November

If needed, take the SAT and/or ACT again.

Plan to finish your applications by Thanksgiving. Colleges that use a rolling admissions process accept or reject students as their applications arrive, rather than waiting for all applicants to submit their forms before starting the admissions process. Submitting your application early slightly raises your chances of acceptance!

December

If needed, take the SAT and/or ACT again.

If you still haven't completed your applications, submit them by Winter Break. Not only will you get them in just before the deadline, you'll also enjoy your time off school much more than if you have deadlines hanging over you.

January

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required for students seeking federal or state aid in the form of loans, grants, or work-study programs. Your parents will need to do their taxes early this year, as much of the requested information will be pulled from their Federal Income Tax Return. The federal deadline is usually in early summer. However, most state deadlines are in March or April, so you should complete the FAFSA by mid-February. You should also check with your colleges or universities to learn their deadlines.

Nearly all communities offer local scholarships to high school seniors. These scholarships are usually established by local businesses, schools, or families, often in memory of a deceased loved one who was an alumnus of a local school. The foundations look for applicants who exhibit qualities or share interests with the person for whom the scholarship was named. Local scholarships may be very specific (awarded to a student who is pursuing a career in education and has participated in high school marching band and has a GPA of 3.2 or higher) or more general (awarded to a student who demonstrates leadership skills). Because there are so many possibilities, begin researching these scholarships early. Your counselor will most likely have a list of the local scholarships and their deadlines for submission.

February/March/April

Students who submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) soon after submitting their application. The SAR details the monetary amounts of any loans or grants you have been awarded, as well as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Loans must be repaid after you leave school, while grants are "free money" that you do not have to repay. Once you receive the SAR, you must accept or decline your financial aid. You may decide that you only want to receive a portion of a loan, or that you want to accept a grant but decline a loan. Review your SAR and resubmit with your final decisions.

You will also begin receiving acceptance or rejection letters from the schools to which you applied. In choosing your school, evaluate all of the factors that are important to you, such as academics, extracurriculars, tuition, financial aid, location, and student life. Mail your deposit and orientation forms to the school that you feel best fits your needs and requirements. Similarly, inform the other colleges in writing that you are declining their acceptance.

Many colleges use a wait-list, on which they place "borderline" students who didn't make the cut for admission, but weren't automatically declined, either. They may keep students on the wait-list until they have a better idea of how many accepted students will attend their school. If you are placed on a wait-list, contact the admissions office at the college to learn if there is anything else you can submit to them to help in their decision process. Find out how you can market yourself in the coming months in order to gain admittance. You also have the right to ask about your chances for eventual admission, as some of the schools that have accepted you may need a deposit before you are off the other college's wait-list.

May

Your new college will require your final transcript in order to verify that your senior grades were consistent with your grades during your other years in high school. Ask your counselor to make this final submission.

Take any final AP exams or SAT Subject Tests. Make sure these scores are sent to your new school in order to receive credit or course placement.

Finally, sit back and relax. Enjoy your high school graduation and the upcoming summer before you begin your new life at your new college or university. Congratulations--you did it!

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