College Planning Advice for High School Seniors

by John Montesi

Senior year of high school is an exciting time in life, with one chapter drawing to a conclusion and another just beginning. In addition to all of the nostalgic events to keep track of, college admissions deadlines and acceptance letters can come up quickly! For this reason, it’s a good idea for seniors to create a timeline that they can follow while working toward graduation and their freshman year at college.

Here is some advice for high school seniors as they prepare to apply to—and choose from—several college options.

Figure Out What Feels Like Home

Some of the best advice for high school seniors who are torn about what college environment they may prefer is to schedule a few campus visits at their top-choice schools. This provides a great opportunity to get a feel for each campus and envision living there.

“Most schools offer a planned program where you can stay overnight and really see what it would be like for you to be a student on that campus,” said Kayla Montgomery, assistant director of undergraduate admissions at Azusa Pacific University. “There are many factors that go into selecting the right school for you, but it is important to remember that wherever you choose to go will become your home.”

With all the different rating systems and experts offering their opinions about colleges, it can be confusing knowing where to start. That’s common! Ultimately, it’s important to make sure that you will feel at ease—and capable of making meaningful connections and doing your best work—in the place you’ll call home.

Planning to visit a few campuses in early fall (or even summer) gives you plenty of time to reflect on your respective experiences and start your applications.

Increase Your Financial Literacy

There are many ways to get help paying for college, from university merit or need-based scholarships to programs like FAFSA and third-party scholarships. Understanding what the financial opportunities are and how each of your college choices will affect your budget is super important.

Montgomery noted that learning how to discuss this subject can be the first hurdle in securing funding for college. “It can be intimidating to focus on how to pay for college, but it is very important that you become familiar with talking about affordability with your support network,” she advised. “The sooner you can have the affordability conversation with those who are going to be supporting you, the better.”

When you understand your financial situation and college budget, you can better plan for everything—from applying for outside scholarships and exploring on-campus jobs to submitting your FAFSA early and giving your top schools time to put together a financial aid offer.

Lean on Your Resources

Once the acceptance letters arrive in early spring, you’ll be confronted with the (sometimes overwhelming) prospect of selecting a college. Soliciting input from trusted friends and family members can be one of the most helpful factors in the decision-making process.

Montgomery recommended creating a support network. “My biggest piece of advice for seniors who are going through the process is to lean into your resources,” she said. “You do not have to go through this process alone! There is a team of people who want to make sure that you have all that you need to make the best decision for your future.”

It’s best to plan ahead for each step of the way, so you feel at ease when the time comes to make a decision. Having extra time for one last conversation with a trusted advisor can really help ease the transition from your last day of high school to your first day on the college campus of your dreams.

Ready to prepare for the transition from high school to college? Explore Undergraduate Admissions at APU to learn more about campus visits, financial aid, and other aspects of the application process.