How to Handle Your Last Two Years – Like a Boss

What to do. When to do it. Why it matters.

High school’s almost over. We’re here to help you stay on track. Here’s a semester-by-semester breakdown of what to do to get ready for life after graduation.

JUNIOR YEAR

FALL

What’s your goal? Graduation. To make sure you’re ready, check Florida’s Student Hub of Innovative Educational Services, floridashines.org, to learn about requirements for Bright Futures and state colleges and universities. Then meet with your school counselor to discuss your academic status and college options.

Serve your community. Sign up for projects that will help you meet the Bright Futures community service requirements.

Get organized. Whether you use DropBox, Google Docs or an old-school file cabinet, you need a way of tracking important dates and application deadlines, as well as information you receive from the schools you’re interested in, reference letters, test scores and essays.

Start thinking about money. Set up profiles on scholarship search websites. We’ve also got a sweet list of scholarships and tips for applying.

Narrow it down. Reach out to the schools you’re interested in and ask them for an application and information packet. Start your research on our Get Smart Guide, and websites like nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator and bigfuture.org.

Sharpen those pencils. Take the earliest SAT and/or ACT test available so you have plenty of time for retakes. Keep taking them throughout your junior and senior year. See some tips. Don’t forget about SAT subject tests and AP exams.

 

 

SPRING

Get ready to shine. Update your resume. If audition tapes or essays are required for college or scholarship applications, start working on those now. The sooner you start, the less stressful the process will be in the long run.

Say Hi. Plan visits to the colleges and universities you’re interested in. Make appointments, especially if you’re visiting during the summer. This will help you decide which school is best for you. See more tips.

Money, money, money. Research scholarship and financial aid directories and begin the application process. The earlier you start, the more you can apply to. The more you apply to, the better your odds for finding FREE money for college. Don’t believe us? See Emmanuel‘s story.

Get some experience. Consider a volunteer job or internship in the field you’re interested in. This could help you get more scholarship money. It could also help you get into the school you want.

 

SENIOR YEAR

FALL

Get ready to apply. Finalize your list of schools and make sure you have everything you need to apply. Many schools will even let you apply online. Applications for Florida state universities and colleges can be found on floridashines.org or on the school’s website.

Apply! Now’s the time! Consider applying to multiple schools in case your first choice isn’t available. Keep a copy of everything you send out. This way if a school tells you something is missing, you can easily resend the item(s).

File that FAFSA. The earliest you can apply for the FAFSA is Oct. 1. Do it as soon as you can. Some financial awards are first-come, first-served. Check out studentaid.ed.gov and finaid.org for other financial aid resources. See our FAFSA tips.

Get ’em talking. Start asking teachers, employers and other adults for letters of recommendation. Give them at least a month to complete the letters — they’re busy. Be sure to show them how much you appreciate their help.

Gimme shelter. Apply for housing if you plan to live on campus. Some schools award the best rooms and dorms to those who apply early. Again, don’t miss out! Curious what it’s like to live with a roommate for the first time?

Track it. Use each school’s online application system to ensure they received all your materials. Keep track of all correspondence you’ve had with college admissions and financial aid officials, whether it’s by phone, email or snail mail.

 

 

SPRING

Cool aid. Complete the Financial Aid Application to be considered for Bright Futures scholarships and other state aid. Apply early to increase your chances of getting reward money and grants.

Who needs what? If your future college wants mid-year transcripts, submit that request to your counselor now. Be sure to say “pretty please!”

Decision time. Now comes the fun part! Once the college admission decisions and financial aid award letters start rolling in, it’s time to decide which school best meets your academic goals and financial needs.

Stay the night. Consider making another visit, ideally an overnighter, to the schools where you were accepted.

Tell ’em. Once you’ve made a decision, notify all colleges immediately. Send in housing and other deposits and sign up for orientation at your chosen school.

Don’t freak! If your top college choices aren’t available, work with your school counselor to find other options.

Who needs what? Part two. If you take dual enrollment classes, request that an official transcript be sent to your future college, as well as your final transcripts.

CLEP to it. Take College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests to earn college credit, saving you time and money. Learn more.

Say thanks. You’re done! Congrats! Now’s the time to send thank you notes to all the teachers, counselors and anyone else who helped walk you through the process. They’ll be excited to hear about your success!

 

Why does college matter anyway?
College grads, on average, make almost twice as much as people with only a high school diploma. They’re also less likely to be unemployed. See more stats. – CNN.com

EXPERTS RECOMMEND
Applying to four to eight schools maximizes your chances of getting accepted. – USNews.com