Photo courtesy of Syerra Milliman

9 Senior Must Dos Before Graduation

October 1, 2018

Every movie set in high school speaks to the glorious feeling of graduating high school and going off to college, but they don’t always show the path the characters took to get there. Senior year is packed with activities to prepare for graduation and getting accepted to college, and can be extremely stressful.

Knowing your expected path- and the steps you need to make along the way- can make or break your year. Here’s a brief checklist that highlights nine major “Senior Must Dos” before graduation.

 

  1. Get your senior portrait and cap and gown

Many people wait until the last minute to schedule a photo session or to order their cap and gown. Don’t do it. Lifetouch will be at FCHS Tuesday, Oct. 23 to take senior portraits. If you want to go another route, there are many local photographers like Ali Johnson who will take your senior portrait and send a digital copy to the school. If you do not get a portrait and submit it to the yearbook staff by Nov. 1, you will not be pictured in the yearbook.

Graduation will be here before you know it, and you can’t “walk” without a cap and gown. Cap and gowns can be ordered through Jostens by phone (1-800-567-8367) or online. Do this as soon as possible. You don’t want to panic in May because you don’t have a cap and gown and possibly have to walk at graduation without it.

  1. Gather college information

Attend college fairs, college nights and speak to college representatives. Haden Parrish, FCHS’ College Advisor, has been hosting college representative visits in the Career Center (room 3213) and plans to host college nights at FCHS, as well as field trips to tour colleges in Virginia and Maryland. Check the Career Center to see a schedule of visits and to sign up to attend. Also, research and plan to tour colleges you are interested in attending. Make sure they provide a degree that you are interested in pursuing. See if the town and class size of the school suit your personal preferences. Many colleges have hefty ($50-$90) application fees, so why apply to a college that may not meet your needs? For those that don’t plan on attending college, meet with Mr. Parrish in the Career Center to discuss alternative options for after high school.

  1. Stay on track to graduation

As you approach the end of your high school career and start your journey to college or the workforce, don’t let your grades drop. Yes you’re tired of studying and yes, “senioritis” is a thing. But you don’t have to succumb to it. Stay on top of your classes and ensure that you receive all the credits necessary to graduate. Counselors are meeting with seniors now to check where you lie on the path to graduation and help you receive the credits you need to walk in May. Remember that colleges can take back their acceptance if your grades bomb spring semester.

  1. Take the SAT or ACT

The SAT or ACT is required to apply to almost all four year colleges.  Some colleges may prefer one test over the other, but generally both tests are accepted. It is recommended that you take the SAT or ACT in the fall semester of your senior year in order to meet application deadlines. FCHS is offering the SAT for free at 8:20 on Oct. 10. The next available ACT date is Oct. 27 and the registration deadline is Sept. 28. There is an extended registration deadline of Oct. 14 for a late fee of $30. There are several online resources that you can use for practice, such as Khan Academy. So hit the books early to score well on these standardized tests.

  1. Make a senior resume

It’s a good idea to compile a list of your accomplishments and activities throughout your high school career. Here you can list awards you have received, published work, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and any jobs you had worked while in high school. Make sure that you update this regularly throughout the year to keep a current record of your activities to apply to colleges and scholarships. It can also come in handy when applying for a job.

  1. Get those applications rollin’

College applications can seem daunting to some, but there are many websites such as Common App or Coalition that guide you through the process and keep you on top of deadlines. If you are still unsure of what to do, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can meet with Mr. Parrish in the Career Center if you have trouble with the application process. It may be a good idea to ask a trusted teacher to look over your Common App essay/personal statement and writing supplements to get good, constructive feedback.

By this time, you should also be identifying who you want to ask for references. Most colleges will ask for at least one-two letters of recommendation from your teachers. Ask a teacher you trust and who knows you well. Be sure to give them at least two weeks notice and always give them a Thank You note or email afterward.

  1. Apply for scholarships and financial aid

Now is the time to register for your FSA ID. This ID serves as your e-signature for the online FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). If you are a dependent student, your parent should also register for an FSA ID at this time. You should then plan on filling out the FAFSA immediately after it opens on Oct. 1. The FAFSA uses your parents’ tax and financial information to assess need-based financial aid for college. If you fill out the FAFSA online you should receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) within three-five days, three weeks if you mail in the form. See Mr. Parrish in the Career Center if you have trouble analyzing your SAR. Mr. Parrish will also be holding a FAFSA night Oct. 1 from 5:30-8:30 in the Career Center to address any questions students and parents may have while filling out the FAFSA. All students planning on attending college are encouraged to attend.

Another tool for financial aid comes in the form of scholarships and grants. Colleges may grant institutional scholarships based on your grades or the information you provided in the FAFSA. There are also local, state, and national scholarships for which you can apply for, some general, and some based on specific requirements ranging from athletic or academic abilities, volunteer work, or interests. A list of local scholarships are posted on a board outside the counseling office, and will be updated as more scholarships become available throughout the year. You can also apply to scholarships online and use online resources such as Fastweb Deadlines and VIP Voice that notify you of scholarships for which you might qualify. Don’t give up on scholarships as you approach graduation. There is still plenty of time to receive money for the fall semester.

  1. Choose your school

By Feb. 1 most application deadlines will be behind you. The stress of applying to college is over and replaced with the stress of wondering where you’ll be accepted. Generally, admissions decisions go out by March or April so keep an eye out for notifications from colleges. You should notify all colleges of your decision by May 1, and if you decline financial aid offers from colleges, be sure to notify their financial aid office since other students will need the aid you declined.

  1. Complete enrollment and prepare for graduation

Complete all enrollment paperwork for the college you have chosen to attend by their deadline. This includes course scheduling, orientation sessions, housing arrangements, meal plans, and required forms. Once all that is completed, and you are on track to attend your school of choice in the fall, all that is left is graduating high school. Make sure to tie up all loose ends such as paying any remaining cafeteria balances, turning in overdue books and textbooks, and passing all your exams.

 

There is no need to panic and stress out as graduation approaches. Stay on track with this checklist and you’ll be in good shape by the time May rolls around. Don’t forget to still have fun this year. Attend football games, go to Homecoming and Prom, and spend plenty of time with your friends. You only get one chance to make senior year memorable.

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