17 College Application Tips for High School Seniors

Written by Eva Goetze
Published on October 14, 2023 · Updated on October 14, 2023

17 College Application Tips for High School Seniors

Written by Eva Goetze
Published on October 14, 2023 · Updated on October 14, 2023

As high school seniors, you stand at the threshold of an exciting new chapter in your life – college. Whether you've already decided on a college or are still in the midst of applications and decisions, this period is marked by anticipation, growth, and endless possibilities. It's a time when thoughtful planning and preparation can greatly enhance your college experience. 

In this guide, we will offer comprehensive advice for both those who have made their college choice and those who are still navigating the application process. From staying informed and securing financial aid to preparing for your academic journey and making the most of campus life, these insights aim to empower you to make informed decisions and embark on your college journey with confidence.

7 Tips for Students Who Have Picked Their School

  1. Stay Informed: Stay engaged with your college community by checking your email regularly for important updates like registration deadlines, housing information, and orientation details. Additionally, follow the institution's social media accounts to learn about campus culture, events, and opportunities.

  2. Financial Aid and Scholarships: To secure the financial support you need, ensure you've completed the FAFSA and any additional financial aid forms required by your college. Keep up your scholarship search efforts to help alleviate the financial burden of tuition and related expenses.

  3. Housing and Roommates: Make sure your housing arrangements are finalized. Whether that means reserving a dorm room or securing off-campus housing. Also, establish open lines of communication with your future roommates to discuss preferences, dorm decor, responsibilities, and any shared items for your living space.

  4. Academic Preparation: For a successful start, explore the course catalog and requirements for your intended major, and consider which classes you want to enroll in during your first semester. Additionally, understand the academic advising process and be prepared to register for courses as soon as registration period opens, because class spots go fast!

  5. Health and Wellness: Ensure you're prepared on the health front by verifying your health insurance coverage and becoming familiar with the campus health services, including their location and hours of operation. Check if there are any mandatory health screenings, vaccinations, or health forms that you need to complete before arriving on campus.

  6. Packing and Move-In: Begin the process of creating a comprehensive packing list for your dorm room or apartment, taking into account essential items, personal belongings, and any guidelines provided by your college. Coordinate transportation and logistics for your move-in day, including the date, time, and any necessary parking permits.

  7. Stay Connected: Maintain strong connections with friends and family before heading off to college, as their support and encouragement will be invaluable during your transition and beyond.

10 Tips for Students Who Are Still Applying/Deciding

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many high school students start their senior year without having a clue where they’ll be living and learning next year. Even as the semester progresses and applications become due, you still won’t find out for a while where you’ll be attending college, so try to relax but be efficient. Here are 10 tips to help you prepare for the next college step.

  1. Research Extracurricular Opportunities: Take the time to explore the extracurricular activities and clubs offered at each college you're considering. Look for opportunities that align with your interests and passions outside of academics. Joining clubs or participating in extracurricular activities can greatly enhance your college experience and help you build a strong resume for future endeavors.

  2. Consider Location and Campus Culture: Think about the location of each college and the campus culture on your balanced college list. 

A balanced list means having a plethora of Super Reach, Reach, Target, and Safety schools to choose from. 

Consider factors such as climate, urban or rural setting, and the overall vibe of the campus community and academic culture. Are you looking for a school where you can discuss research and philosophy? Columbia University may be a great fit for you. In contrast, applying to Indiana University Bloomington would highlight more of your athletic spirit. Overall, these factors can have a significant impact on your overall college experience, so choose a setting that suits your preferences and lifestyle.

  1. Evaluate Career Services and Internship Opportunities: Research the career services and internship opportunities available at each college. A strong career services department can provide valuable resources for securing internships, co-op programs, and eventually, your first job after graduation. Investigate the college's connections with local businesses and industries to gauge the potential for hands-on learning experiences.

  2. Application Deadlines: Stay organized by creating a calendar or checklist that includes application deadlines for each college on a balanced list of about 15-30 colleges. Make sure you have explored the academic realms, majors, toured the campus, and understand the requirements for each application to ensure all required documents, such as transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation, are submitted by their respective deadlines.

  3. Write Strong Essays: Colleges may have zero to 5+ essays. Give yourself enough time to brainstorm topics that highlight your gifts, voice, and high school leadership experiences. Enhance your application by crafting a compelling personal essay that provides insight into your unique experiences, values, and aspirations. Seek feedback from teachers, counselors, or mentors to help you refine and enhance your essay.

  4. Prepare for Interviews: Be prepared for interviews, as some colleges may conduct them as part of their application process. Practice your interview skills and be ready to discuss your academic interests and career goals.

  5. Grants, Scholarships, and Financial Aid: Secure the necessary financial aid by exploring various options, including grants, loans, and work-study programs. Additionally, actively search for grants and scholarships locally and nationally and apply for as many as you qualify for to reduce the financial burden. Trust us, future you will thank you for putting in the effort today when your student loans aren’t as big as they could be.

  6. Visit Campuses (if possible): Gain firsthand experience of the campus environment by planning visits to your top-choice colleges, if circumstances permit. Attend information sessions, sit in on classes, and engage with current students to gather insights and assess the campus fit.

  7. Compare Offers: Make informed decisions by creating a spreadsheet to compare acceptance letters and financial aid packages, factoring in tuition, fees, available scholarships, and any additional costs. Weigh your options carefully and consider the long-term value of each college in relation to your goals and financial situation.

  8. Seek Guidance: Seek guidance and support from your high school counselor, teachers, or mentors throughout the application and decision-making process. They can offer valuable advice on making choices that align with your academic and career aspirations.

Lastly, no matter at what point you’re at, Universities.com can be an excellent resource for comprehensive guidance. Our platform offers a wealth of information, from career planning resources to application advice, and even blogs and articles that can help you fine-tune your essay-writing skills. One of our standout features is the ability to access detailed rankings of universities and colleges, including classes and programs offered at each institution. This can assist you in making well-informed choices about where to apply or where you'll ultimately study. 

By staying informed, being proactive, and seeking guidance when needed, you're setting a solid foundation for success. College is not just about where you go but what you make of it, and the knowledge and experiences you gain along the way will shape your future in ways you can't yet imagine. So, take a deep breath, trust in your abilities, and embark on this incredible adventure with enthusiasm and determination. Your future awaits, and it's full of promise and potential. Congratulations, welcome to senior year, and best of luck on your college journey!