12th Grade

How to Guide and Advise Your Senior

The senior year is when everything comes together. It is also the year in which students see the rewards of their hard work and planning.

1. Continue to monitor academic progress.

Students sometimes think that their senior grades aren’t important. These students need to know that colleges often ask to see first semester senior grades. Seniors also need to know that at the end of the year, their high school will forward their final transcript, with their senior grades, to the college they plan to attend.

2. Set up a calendar for the year.

Use this calendar to record test dates, application deadlines, college visitation days, etc.

3. Have your son or daughter sign up for the first ACT or SAT, if necessary.

Take a look at previous test scores, and determine whether or not your son or daughter needs to take the ACT and/or SAT in October. Students who want to take the October ACT or SAT need to register early in September.

Colleges view ACT and SAT scores differently. Some colleges are looking for very high test scores; other colleges use ACT and SAT scores more for placement than admissions. If your son or daughter is hoping to be accepted at a competitive college or into a competitive program, or if he/she is trying to get a scholarship, having high test scores can be very important. For advice on whether your son or daughter should retake the ACT and/or SAT, talk to the high school counselor or call the college admissions office.
If students do not do well on the ACT and/or SAT, this doesn’t mean that they won’t be accepted into the college of their choice, or that they won’t do well in college. Admissions officers look at a variety of criteria when evaluating applicants and many students who do not do well on the ACT or SAT do very well in college.

4. Oversee completion of college applications in the fall.

High school guidance offices have applications for many of the colleges their students attend. If your high school does not have the application your son or daughter needs, contact the college and ask them to send you one. Also check the college’s Web site. Most colleges now prefer that students complete their application online.

All applications require a high school transcript, and most have one or more sections for the high school counselor to complete. As a parent, you should do the following:

Make sure that applications are completed correctly.

Before your child completes an application, make a copy to use as a rough draft. Double check the rough draft to make sure that the information is complete and accurate and that essays are well written. (English teachers are often willing to proofread essays.) Also make sure that all achievements, activities, and awards are included. Keep a copy of each completed application, and note the date it was submitted.

Tip: It’s important that your son or daughter apply to at least one “safety school.” This is a college to which he/she is sure to be accepted, and one that you can definitely afford.

Provide information for recommendations.

If a counselor is going to write a recommendation for your son or daughter, he/she would probably welcome written information and anecdotes with regards to your child’s strengths, interests, talents, leadership skills, and educational plans. Counselors should also be given a copy of your child’s list of “Activities and Awards.”

In addition to counselor recommendations, many applications also require one or more teacher recommendations. Students who need a recommendation from a teacher should do the following:

  1. put the request in writing,
  2. provide the teacher with a list of their “Activities and Awards,”
  3. give the teacher instructions on what information to include, along with instructions on what to do with the recommendation once it’s completed, and
  4. if the teacher is to mail the recommendation, provide the teacher with an addressed, stamped envelope. A thank you note to a teacher or counselor who has written a recommendation would be appropriate and very much appreciated. Even if an application does not require a recommendation, you can still include one. If there’s information that you want the admissions office to take into consideration, you or your son/daughter can also write an essay or letter and include it with the application.

Make sure applications are sent in well before the deadlines.

High school counselors have many responsibilities and numerous applications to complete between October and February. Understand that it takes time and thought to complete an application correctly and/or write a letter of recommendation. Because schools are closed the last part of December, application forms with early January deadlines should be given to the counselor by the first week in December.

Tip: A number of colleges are now offering early decision and early action plans. Under these plans, students get an earlier admission decision from the college. Early decision and early action plans should only be considered by students who are absolutely sure of where they want to go to college.

Tip: Many colleges send postcards or e-mails to let students know that they’ve received their application. If you do not hear from a college, you may want to call the admissions office to make sure that they have received everything they need.

5. Complete financial aid and scholarship application forms.

If you are applying for financial aid, complete the FAFSA and submit it as soon after January 1 as possible.

6. Make the decision.

At some point in the spring, you and your son or daughter must make a choice. Do not choose a college before making a college visit. Once the choice is made, complete the necessary forms, and, as a courtesy, notify the other colleges. If your son or daughter is planning to live on campus, be sure to send in the required housing deposit before the deadline.