Making the most of your senior year is the next step in preparing for life after high school.
Here are the six most important ways to make your senior year count, which includes student activity ideas.
1. Plan your class schedule with your future in mind
“Senior year is not the time to lay off,” says Jonathan Burdick, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid at the University of Rochester (rochester.edu).
Try to take classes senior year that will help you ace your major’s prerequisites, explains Rochester Institute of Technology (rit.edu) senior associate director of admissions Marian Nicoletti.
Too many students choose to lighten their loads senior year—and regret it once they begin college. Think of some student activity ideas.
High school is the last time that you’ll be able to take classes for free. So why not take the basics now, rather than pay for remedial courses in college?
The courses you choose senior year can also affect admissions decisions—and how ready you will be to begin your major.
For example, “a prospective biotechnology major should be taking courses in AP Biology and perhaps calculus,” Nicoletti says. Prospective engineers, she says, should take physics and calculus.
Choosing rigorous senior year coursework shows colleges that you’re serious about studying.
However, “It’s not necessary for students to take five AP courses senior year,” Burdick says. Challenge yourself academically, but also balance your other activities.
2. Research colleges and universities
Picking a college is a big decision, so it makes sense to do some research first. Ask yourself these questions as you begin your search:
> What majors are you interested in?
> What kind of degree do you want?
> Would you prefer a school that offers a wide variety of programs, or one that focuses on a particular discipline, like music, art or engineering?
> Do you want a college curriculum that emphasizes theoretical research or practical experience?
> What extracurricular activities do you want to continue in college?
> Do you hope to start your career right after college, or are you looking to prepare for graduate school?
Start by researching the colleges that send you brochures in the mail, and those in your area.
Next Step’s College Match tool (NextStepU.com/Match) can help you compile a list of potential schools.
3. Continue your extracurricular involvement (Student Activity ideas)
Senior year is not the time to abandon the activities that are important to you.
It’s actually a great time to assume a leadership role in an organization or try a new activity. And if you haven’t been involved in any extracurriculars, senior year is not too late to start.
“Extracurricular activities are very important, and are highly considered during the admissions review,” Nicoletti says. “All of these extracurricular activities tell a story about the applicant’s character.”
Whether you’re involved in sports, music, religious ministries or peer tutor ing, extracurricular and community service activities show admissions officers that you can follow through and work as part of a team. Plus, you have the added benefit of discovering and developing your personal interests and talents
4. Work and explore careers
Working in high school can give you valuable insight into various work environments—and let you earn some money. Any job will do; you don’t have to work in your field of choice.
“I see far too many students without any paid work experience,” Burdick says.
Just the fact that you’re working shows that you’re reliable, presentable, responsible and able to work with a variety of people.
Even if you work outside your chosen field, the invaluable experience of applying, interviewing, and working a part-time job will prepare you for your professional career.
During senior year, make an effort to research various careers you are considering. Look into volunteer or intern experiences, too.
For example, if you’re considering a career in education, volunteer in a classroom after school, or tutor a student.
However, Burdick warns, don’t sacrifice significant class or study time to complete a co-op or internship.
A few weeks of volunteer work, or a month-long internship, will still give you valuable experience and show a college admission committee that you’re a serious applicant.
5. Learn how to market yourself
In addition to your grades and test scores, the way that you present your unique interests and achievements plays an important role in college admissions and scholarship decisions.
Compile a résumé detailing your awards, extracurricular achievements, community service activities and work experiences. Complete an interview, even if it is not required.
6. Apply for scholarships
College tuition is expensive, but scholarships can help you cover the cost. Free search engines, such as www.nextstepu.com/nextstepu-scholarships/, can help you find relevant scholarships. Also check to see if your high school guidance office compiles a list of local scholarships.
Though scholarships are competitive, competing against other qualified candidates can be a valuable experience—and if you win, you can help cover the cost of college!
“Anyone can fill out an application,” Burdick says. “I like to see students that spend some time on the Web site, get to know the institution, and be able to articulate why they’re a good fit.”
A thorough application also increases your chance of receiving a merit scholarship.
When it comes to college applications, why not take every step to maximize your opportunities?
Cristina Dinella is a freshman at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester, where she is double majoring in music education and applied mathematics.