It’s now March and with approximately three quarters of junior year completed, now is the time that most rising seniors meet with their school counselors to plan their all-important senior year course schedule. Besides grades and standardized test scores, selection of classes is one of the most important factors that go into the admission decision process. However, before students finalize their academic and extracurricular program, it’s important to heed the advice that now is not the time to coast on past successes or avoid areas of weakness. In other words, don’t let senioritis get the best of you! Senioritis can potentially jeopardize your admission to colleges and financial aid packages. Many colleges also request a mid-year report. Senior year is a time to prove that you are ready to take on college level courses. So, how can you use your senior year class schedule to enhance your college applications and win over college admission officials? Here are some winning tips by Pam Ohriner, Independent College Consultant, that are sure to set you down the right path to college:
- Do your research. Check out what courses will be offered your senior year and who will be teaching them. Note the requirements for honors or AP classes. Many of these upper level classes have minimum grade requirements in prior courses and require a faculty recommendation. Plan ahead so that you can fulfill necessary prerequisites. Consider your intended college major, if you know it, and research required or recommended classes for these programs at some of your colleges of interest.
- Take classes that show a rigorous senior year. Now is not the time to slack off and relax. State or high school academic minimum requirements can be far different from minimum requirements at selective colleges. In order to be as competitive as possible for admission, it would be ideal to take five rigorous classes, one from each core academic area. If you wish to drop one subject, it is advisable to double up in another area. For example, if you wish to drop foreign language, perhaps add a second math class or science class. Keep in mind though, the objective of creating a balanced schedule. Colleges are looking for well-rounded students that demonstrate a potential to succeed in many areas. Taking a number of courses in an area of interest will help to create a compelling application and highlight your strengths.
- Challenge yourself, but be careful not to overload to the point where your grades suffer. Take as many AP and honor classes as you can handle while still maintaining strong grades. Avoid getting C’s. Ideally, your transcript should show you increasingly rising up to challenge yourself throughout high school. Take it up a notch and set the bar just a little higher! Receiving college credit for AP classes could open up the opportunity to take more electives in college, graduate from college sooner (and save money), or allow you to take higher level courses your first semester.
- Don’t avoid areas of weakness. If you have not performed well in a particular subject in the past, don’t run from it. This is an opportunity to take a higher level course in that subject and prove that you have mastered the curriculum. Colleges love to see an upward trend in grades and value dedication and hard work.
- Make sure to take at least one elective class. If your schedule permits, consider taking two electives. Delve into subjects that interest you or explore new areas. Elective classes can showcase your talents and academic curiosity, in addition to providing valuable preparation for college. Fine arts, technology, social sciences, writing, and performing arts are all great electives to choose.
- Dropping foreign language or math can potentially affect your performance on college placement exams. A year is a long time away from a subject and a lot of information can be forgotten. Performing poorly on placement exams could result in having to take remedial classes in which no college credit is given.
- Most importantly, colleges are looking for students that demonstrate a commitment to school and prove that they can succeed at college level academics.
- Keep up your extracurricular interests. Now is not the time to drop a sport, journalism, music, choir or other extracurricular activity. Colleges want to see a long-term commitment to an activity and increased leadership and responsibility within the interest. Remember to consider time commitment to extracurricular activities when planning your schedule to avoid potential conflicts.
- Plan ahead to apply to college. Create a spreadsheet or calendar and note all the upcoming deadlines for applications, tests, recommendation letters, financial aid forms, and college visits. This will help keep you on track for college. The Common Application goes live on August 1st and the UC application is also available on August 1st https://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/how-to-apply/applying-as-a-freshman/dates-and-deadlines.html. However, the UC application cannot be submitted until November 1st. The Cal State application is available on October 1st.
- Allow time to study if you are planning to take the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, or ACT test in the fall. The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are typically given in October, November and December. The ACT test is usually available in September, October and December. Check with individual colleges for their requirements and deadlines for receipt of scores.
To ensure your best chance at a highly successful senior year, students should weigh a few key factors. Of course, students need to go above and beyond fulfilling minimum course requirements. By taking classes that nurture their interests and excite them, students have the best chance of doing well. Lastly, set high goals for yourself and do all that you can to achieve them. As private college consultants, Helping Hand College Guidance works individually with students to create a college plan for their senior year, which includes selecting a college prep schedule and planning extracurricular activities. Contact us today to give you a competitive edge in the admissions process through course selection, while also answering your questions. With our guidance, you can feel confident that you are doing all you can to achieve your goals.