Transition from High School

To-Do List for Parents of High School Seniors

Most of this work will be done by the student, but parents can encourage, proofread, and help the whole process stay on track.



❑  Confirm that counselor and teacher recommendation letters have been uploaded into the Common Application and request transcripts be sent to the schools you’re applying to (there may be a small fee for each transcript).

❑  Note financial aid application deadlines, which may differ from admission application deadlines. Not sure you qualify? Learn more at the Federal Student Aid website.

❑  Continue to “demonstrate interest” in schools — open emails from colleges, call the admission office to request an alumni interview, etc.

❑  Start gathering financial information and prepare to file taxes early.

❑  Decide which test scores (SAT, ACT) to send and order score reports.

❑  Proof your applications one final time and “submit”!


❑  Submit applications with late due dates (Jan. 15th or after).

❑  Follow up with colleges to make sure all application materials were received.

❑  Check financial aid application deadlines (which vary by school).

❑  Research and apply for scholarships.

❑  Have mid-year grade reports sent to all schools you’ve applied to.


❑  Confirm financial aid deadlines & requirements at the schools you applied to.

❑  File taxes early if possible, but don’t wait to submit the FAFSA — it can be updated later.

❑  Explore gap year possibilities.

❑  If you didn’t apply yet, or want more options, look into schools with late deadlines and/or rolling admissions.

❑  Beware of Senioritis…stay on track academically!

❑  Begin planning for summer (work, travel, volunteering, etc.).


❑  Prepare for an emotional month!

❑  Continue to apply for financial aid (deadlines/requirements vary by school) and scholarships.

❑  Decisions arrive in the mail and/or online by the end of the month, so get ready to handle and share “the news.”

❑  Celebrate!

❑  Compare financial aid awards and evaluate your options.

❑  Consider attending “admitted student” events on campus if you need help deciding which school to accept.


❑  Attend “admitted student” events on campus and compare/contrast other aspects of the schools where you were accepted (including financial aid awards).

❑  If you were wait listed, express interest to the school. Explore late admission possibilities at other colleges.

❑  Send a deposit by May 1st to accept a spot at the college of your choice!

❑  Seniors who aren’t going to college right away consider other post-grad options and finalize gap year plans.

❑  Continue to make an effort in class so grades don’t “droop” too much.

❑  Start planning the graduation party!


❑  Thank everyone who helped you apply to college (teachers, counselors, etc.).

❑  Open and respond promptly to communications from the college — information about housing, orientation, course registration, etc.

❑  Connect with future classmates (and perhaps find a roommate) through the college’s official social media sites.

❑  Study for finals and AP exams — end the year strong.

❑  Solidify summer plans (work? travel? study? volunteer?).

❑  Enjoy time with your friends and family and bask in the glow of your accomplishments at graduation!


❑  Junior year is over — you’re a senior now!

❑  Talk with parents/guardians about how college planning will fit into your summer.

❑  Research colleges using online tools like Naviance (if your high school uses it) and bigfuture (by The College Board).

❑  Begin narrowing your list of potential colleges.

❑  Schedule campus visits and interviews.

❑  Create a test prep plan if you will retake the ACT or SAT.


❑  Create an online Common Application account.

❑  Look at the Common App essay prompts and write a first draft of your essay.

❑  Make a spreadsheet of target schools with deadlines for Early and Regular Decision.

❑  What standardized tests do the schools require? Register for fall ACT or SAT test dates if needed.

❑  Research scholarships and make a list of some to apply for and what’s required.

❑  Have fun — it’s summer!


❑  Continue work on the Common App, including the essay plus any supplemental essays required by colleges you will apply to.

❑  Finish summer reading.

❑  Sign up for your fall counselor meeting. Make sure you will meet all graduation requirements.

❑  Decide which teachers you will ask to write recommendations.

❑  Look at the fall calendar — plan final campus visits/interviews.

❑  Get ready to have an amazing senior year!


❑  Attend local college fairs and dean visits at your high school.

❑  Research gap year possibilities.

❑  Decide if you will apply Early Decision or Early Action to your top choice school; alert your counselor and recommenders.

❑  Will you include an arts/athletic supplement or resume with your application? Work on this.

❑  Share a final draft of your Common App essay(s) with a trusted reader.

❑  Take a look at your social media presence.


❑  Enjoy your high school classes and extracurricular experiences (still your highest priority).

❑  Retake the SAT or ACT.

❑  Request alumni interviews, if available.

❑  Follow up with recommenders.

❑  Learn about financial aid (merit and need-based) and find the most generous colleges.

❑  ED and EA candidates prepare to submit applications by Nov. 1st or 15th!

❑  Begin gathering financial information and prepare to file taxes. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is now available as is the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (required by many private schools and a few flagship state universities).


❑  Register for the December SAT and December ACT (if needed).

❑  Keep a calendar of what’s due when. Plan to submit applications before the due dates, preferably before winter vacation!

❑  Take advantage of priority deadlines — get your application considered sooner and increase eligibility for merit aid.

❑  Finalize a list of “good fit” colleges.

❑  Continue working on the Common Application and other applications and supplements.

❑  Attend financial aid and scholarship workshops at the high school.

Find the FAFSA Deadlines


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