How High School Seniors Can Get Ready for College

Though high school is almost over, there's still much to be done.

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A high school student studies her coursework in the library.
A high school student studies her coursework in the library.

Senior year is a whirlwind of activities and emotions. And it can be hard to look ahead while celebrating and being present for all that occurs during that last year of high school.

But senior year is an important time to prepare for all that lies ahead as well. Here's what parents and college-bound students need to be considering.

JULIE:

Senior year can be a lot of fun for students and parents alike, but it's also an opportunity to cement college plans and lay a good foundation for the future. Here are some things we talked with Lindsey about during her senior year, and will for her younger brother as well.

1. Stay focused on grades: Soon after the college applications are mailed, senioritis tends to set in. And while it's true that, for some colleges, grades from the first three years of high school will be most important, there are reasons to stay focused on the senior grades as well.

If your student has applied at competitive colleges, the first semester senior year grades may be taken into account to determine if he or she is accepted or not. Scholarships can also be won or lost based on senior year grades as well.

2. Apply for scholarships: Speaking of scholarships, senior year is the time to be actively searching them out. At some colleges and universities, your application for admission is also your scholarship application. But that's not universally true.

Also, outside scholarships will require separate applications and a certain amount of effort on the part of your student will be required to even find these scholarships.

[Read about the importance of scholarships.]

3. Make good decisions: The senior year of high school is often full of pressure to drink and engage in other destructive behaviors. Even high school students who haven't been tested up until now may find that changing.

This last year at home is an opportunity for parents to help their child navigate the challenging waters of the end of high school and prepare for the increased independence of college as well.

[Find out how to safeguard your teen during college visits.]

LINDSEY:

Senior year can be tough, because students want to engage in all of the fun activities that come along with being the top dogs on campus but also have to be actively looking forward to the college careers.

Here are some easy ways that I stayed focused on college while still enjoying my last year of high school.

1. Narrow down college options: When it comes to college applications, there's much more to think about than just the application to the school. There are also applications for housing, the honors program, scholarships, and direct admission to a professional school to think about.

The less schools you have on your radar, the more you can focus on these specific areas. Is there a school that you just can't afford but are keeping around anyway? Drop it. A school you like but doesn't excel in the major(s) you're considering? Let it go. Reductions like these will make your life much easier in the months to come.

[Learn more about narrowing down your college options.]

2. Begin the housing process: Applying for student housing is something you want to do as soon as you choose which school you'll be attending. Each university is different, but the earlier you get in your housing application, the more likely you'll be to get the residence hall, floor, or roommate you want.

My advice is to room with someone other than your best friend for lots of reasons, but if you'd rather not go potluck, try looking into roommate finder websites or consider friends of friends as potential roommates.

[Get more advice on choosing a roommate.]