High school seniors face a challenge that is truly unique. You have to keep one foot firmly in the present (to maintain good grades, strong extracurriculars, and finish college applications), while also dipping a toe into the future (deciding where to go to college, exploring career choices). Not only that, seniors are about to celebrate the huge milestone of graduating from high school and deserve to have a little fun, too.

While other Signet blog posts discuss each of these events in detail, this post offers parents and students an overview of the entire senior year. We’ll start with bigger picture themes, discuss semester goals, and finally zoom in on a month-by-month checklist. Follow along with our timeline, and you’ll hit each milestone while still having the space to enjoy these final months at home.

Senior Year Themes

Keep Academics Strong: Senior year is not a time to let grades slip. Focus on studies all the way through graduation.

Apply to College (with the right mindset): This year you’ll be choosing which schools to apply to, and subsequently, which school to attend. There are many pieces to the college process, but by taking it step by step and keeping the focus on what you want, you’ll be able to identify the schools that will be the best fit.

Prepare for the College Transition: This includes making sure life skills (like doing laundry or operating a bank account) are in place, as well as fortifying your study habits so you can keep up your academic performance when living on your own. Parents, this may also include having some of the bigger and harder conversations with your kids, prior to them leaving the nest.

Enjoy this Precious Time of Life: Spending time with friends and family is a truly special opportunity students have during this last year of high school. You also deserve to have some fun, after working hard for four years!

Semester Overview

Fall Semester

    • Finish SAT/ACT testing (if applicable—most students should already be done).
    • Apply to colleges!
    • Monitor application portals very closely and make sure all required information has been received.
    • Keep up engagement with extracurriculars and academics.
    • Stay mentally curious and fresh.
    • Have some fun!

Spring Semester

    • Monitor applications and make sure all required information has been received.
    • Take the appropriate actions if you get waitlisted or deferred.
    • Choose where to go to college by May 1.
    • Plan senior summer.
    • Prepare for the college transition.
    • Enjoy the last few months of high school!

Monthly Checklist

September-October

    • Stay on top of academics from the very start of the school year.
    • Complete any last-minute standardized testing (SAT, ACT, SAT ST).
    • Decide whether to apply early, and if so, complete early applications.
    • Work diligently on college applications.
    • Get feedback from trusted advisors on college essays.
    • Check college interview policies and schedule interviews if appropriate.

November-December

    • Submit early applications (if appropriate).
    • Continue working on applications and essays (most deadlines are in late December/early January).
    • Conduct a mental health check-in to make sure you’re feeling focused and on track.
    • Maintain extracurricular involvement.
    • Study for exams and finish the semester strong.

January-February

    • Complete any outstanding application work for schools with later deadlines; provide any additional documentation needed.
    • Schedule interviews where appropriate.
    • Take a deep breath once applications are done!
    • Consider plans for summer.
    • Make a study plan for any AP exams.
    • Prioritize important relationships.

March-April

    • Prepare yourself for the “waiting period”: decisions may come in as late as April, and it’s normal, though difficult, to feel that your future is uncertain.
    • Discuss the practical elements of the transition to college.
    • Evaluate acceptances; choose where to go to college or take any appropriate waitlist actions.
    • Schedule any final college visits.
    • Study for any AP exams.

May-June

    • Take AP exams (if applicable).
    • Thank teachers and school counselors for their help over the last four years.
    • Prepare for senior summer and the college transition.
    • Celebrate! Spend time with loved ones and focus on fun and interesting activities.

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