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12th Grade: What You Need to Do to Prepare for College

High school graduation — you're almost there! If you thought junior year was busy, the college search is really serious now. Here's what you need to do your senior year to be ready for college in the fall.

A student studies in Pius XII Memorial Library

First Semester

Keep in close contact with your school counselor and your college admission counselor to keep your plans on track.

Sign up for the ACT or SAT if you aren't satisfied with your scores from junior year. Some colleges require standardized test scores as part of the application process; others do not. Having scores to submit if needed keeps your college options open. 

Request personal references from teachers or other mentors at least two weeks before college application deadlines. 

Schedule campus visits at your top college choices. Fall and spring break are good times to visit schools you’re interested in, because you can observe campus when classes are going on and talk to current students.

Apply. As a general rule of thumb, plan on applying to four or five colleges and universities: one "dream" or "reach" college, three realistic options and one "safe" school. Colleges and universities that accept the Common Application may still require supplemental forms. Merit scholarships might also require separate applications and essays.

Request that your high school transcripts and test scores be sent to schools.

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Get more information on college financial aid and apply for scholarships.

Send thank you notes to your counselor and people who wrote you recommendations.

Second Semester

Keep your grades up; second semester grades can affect scholarship eligibility.

Ask your counselor to send first semester transcripts to colleges and universities where you applied. In May, they'll need to send final transcripts to the college you will attend.

Finish the FAFSA. You can expect to receive your Student Aid Report about four weeks after the FAFSA is filed.

Deposit. You can reserve your spot at more than one college or university if you still aren't sure where you'll be going.

Compare financial aid packages and make a final decision.

Sign up for student orientation at your new university and politely notify other colleges that you won't attend.

Graduate and you're on your way! Take a quiz to see if you'll be a good roommate or read over our dorm room supply list