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12th Grade To-Do List

12th Grade college application helpThink of you senior year as a marathon race. Pace yourself. By the time you reach the finish line, your college acceptances will validate all your hard work.

Check out the other lists for 9th, 10th, and 11th grade to review and plan ahead.

Summer Before 12th Grade

  • Continue to Research a Range of Colleges that will Fit Into Three Different Categories:

    • Safeties/Likelies: Schools to which you have about a 75% chance or above of being admitted, your GPS and standardized test scores are above the average.
    • 50/50: Schools at which you have a 50% chance of admission.
    • Reaches: Your chances of being admitted are 30% or less.
  • Fill out the Common Application Online when it comes out at the end of the summer. Visit the website.

    • Register ASAP as The Common Application now has over 450 college members that all accept their single, stream-lined application. However, many colleges still require supplements.
    • The Killer Essay: Now is the time to begin writing your main personal essay for the Common Application. (See Tips On How To Write A Killer Essay)
    • Many times, individual college's supplementary essays are posted on the Common App and have differing deadlines.
  • Campus Visits: If you haven't already visited colleges high on your list, now's the time to grab your calander and, if financially possible, plan your trip: set the dates with each Admissions office, request an on-campus interview (see Interviews below), email faculty in departments you are particularly interested in, and get permission to attend a class or stay in a dorm, if possible. Tip: This is more effective than a general college tour. Follow up with thank you notes.
  • Application References: Choose which teachers, advisors, coaches, etc. you will ask to recommend you. Be sure to ask them as early as possible and give them a copy of your latest student resume, an addressed, stamped envelope for each college they are sending their recommendations to, and thank them for their support.
  • Student Resume: Update your resume during the summer.
  • Supplementary Materials: Go through your portfolio (see Give Yourself An Edge) and select the items you plan to submit.
  • Honors and Awards Outside of School: Continue to enter local, state, or national competitions in your strongest subjects or areas of interest.
  • College Sports: If you a varsity athlete and plan to continue your sport in college, talk to your high school coach and contact college athletic departments.
  • Interviews: Some colleges offer interviews. Always choose to interview if you can and arrange them early. The best way is to interview with a college admissions officer during a campus visit in the fall but you won't always have that option. Send thank you notes after each interview.


  • Finalize College List: Try to limit this list to 10 schools.
  • Early Action, Early Decision and Rolling Admission: Deadlines for many schools begin as early as October, so keep track of the dates for each school to which you are applying.
  • Personal Essay: Continue to work on your personal essay and college's supplementary questions.
  • Recommendations: Be sure to ask the recommenders on your list as early as possible. Give each of them a copy of your latest resume, and an addressed /stamped envelope for each college to which you are applying. It is not unusual for 12th grade students to expand this list during the Fall, but be sure to give recommenders additional stamped, addressed envelopes for any colleges you add to your list. Remember to write thank you notes to your recommenders for their time, support and extra efforts.
  • Financial Aid: In order to be eligible for financial aid at many schools, you must apply earlier than if you are not applying for this aid.
  • Crucial Submission Deadlines: Available on The Common Application Naviance, and on each individual school's websites.
  • Network: Talk to as many college acquaintances as possible about their college experiences, both positive and negative. Remember, their "take" is not necessarily objective, but you can still get some valuable information and insights.
  • College Visits: If you haven't already visited colleges high on your list, now's the time to grab your colander and, if financially possible, plan your itinerary and college tour dates. It's best to visit when colleges are in session.
  • Before You Go:

    • Request an on-campus interview. Email faculty in departments you are particularly interested in, and if possible, get permission to attend a class or stay in a dorm. Tip: Dorm stays and classroom audits are more informative than general college tours. Follow up with thank you notes to your guide, any professors you met with, anyone you talked to in the admissions office, and whomever you stayed with if you spent a night in a dorm.

      • Interviews: If you want to interview, arrange for one as early as possible. This indicates your serious intention to apply (rather than a last minute choice). The best way to interview is with a college admissions officer during a campus visit but you wont always have that option. Alumni in your area will be available as well. Send thank you notes after each interview.
  • Additional Information/Student Resume: If you have a number of activities that cannot be fully described in a few short lines on activity forms, include a resume.
  • Never assume that admissions officers will be familiar with acronyms for school clubs or outside-of-school programs without a well-written, detailed description of each one, its purpose, and your role in it.
  • Supplementary Materials: Go through your portfolio (see Give Yourself An Edge) and select the items you plan to submit. Check the new Common Application to learn how these materials should be formatted.
  • When to Apply: Prioritize your application according to each school's deadline and submit all of them as early as possible. Don't forget to turn in transcript request forms to your school's registrar.

    • If you are applying Early Decision, Early Action and/or Rolling Admission, submit these first. If you are applying for Regular Admission, do these next.
    • For Early Decision, and Early Action, usually you will not receive results until December, so you must still fill out an submit the rest of your applications ASAP! Otherwise, if you are deferred or rejected by your early action/decision schools, you will experience a stressful rush to fill out the rest of the supplementary essays. This will eviscerate your winter vacation. Be kind to yourself and avoid this scenario.
    • Always make a copy of your submitted applications in case of an error in transmission.


  • Update College Admissions Officers About New Achievements: It's never too late to share new information, even after you've already submitted your application.
  • Follow Up: Check with each college admissions office to make sure your application is complete.
  • Private Scholarship Applications: Get them in on time!
  • Grades: Second Semester grades do matter. Colleges want to make sure you haven't slacked off. In rare cases, they will revoke your admission if you take a big "Senior Slide". Don't let this happen to you.


  • Review College Acceptances and Financial Aid Packages: If you have any questions, call the college's financial aid officer.
  • Evaluate Your Choices: If you have any doubts about which college to attend, discuss your options with your counselor and your parents.
  • Enroll: Send in your enrollment agreement and deposit before the deadline and inform other colleges than you will not be attending.
  • Waitlist: Notify admissions officers immediately if you want to stay on the waitlist. Send a persuasive letter, any new achievements and an additional recommendation.

    • If you are accepted from the waitlist of your dream college and decide to enroll, this may mean a loss of your deposit at another school, so you and your parents must discuss whether the change is truly worth it.
  • Thank You Notes: Write notes to everyone who has helped you through these difficult months, including your counselor, your parents and anyone else who has given you their support.


  • Create a College Budget: Apply for additional student loans you may need and get a summer job.
  • Final Transcript: If you have signed an enrollment agreement, make sure your high school sends out your end-of-year transcript to that college.
  • College Tuition and Forms: Keep track of important deadlines for tuition payments, housing and health forms.
  • Have a Great Summer: You deserve it!

Ready, Aim, Fire!

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It's time to start your college search. But not so fast. Do a little research first. Check out informative college websites, take an online tour, read reliable college guide books and get feedback from friends who are already in college. Deciding where you will fit in and thrive for four years to come is a journey with many detours. So don't rush it. Give yourself plenty of time to get lost, change directions or stop and refuel.


Try It On First

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How do you know where you want to go to college? What do you do to find out? The answer is found through personal experience. Visit a variety of local colleges and universities. You need to hang out at a sprawling state university, sit in on a seminar at a small liberal arts college, check out an 8'x10' dorm room, and eavesdrop on students in the dining hall. After doing this personal research, you'll be surprised at what fits, and what doesn't.


Highlight Your Passion

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Colleges want a renaissance class made up of all types of students. What is your special talent? What sets you apart? Everyone has something they are passionate about, whether it’s quirky, off-the-beaten-path or more mainstream. Your individual passion is the thing that sets you apart from other college applicants and will ultimately round out a diverse class. Susan's specialty is to draw out your uniqueness and show you how to successfully communicate “who you are.”


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