How to Successfully Plan for Your Senior Year of High School

Ashley Thommana
May 6, 2024

As the school year is coming to an end, many rising seniors are turning their sights toward their last year of high school, and the formidable college application process that it entails. Balancing college applications with classes, extracurriculars, and other responsibilities is no easy feat. However, planning your senior year is a great way to ensure you have a smooth-sailing college application process. 

The Timeline

Breaking up the coming year into three time frames is a good way to conceptualize the college application process. Summer, first semester, and second semester are all characterized by different levels of commitments. They also roughly coincide with major deadlines in the college application process. 

Here are some key dates to be aware of:


Starting in the summer can give you a headstart in this process, especially since you will likely be taking challenging classes your senior year along with applying to colleges. Maximizing the time you have during the summer which is generally free of several classes’ homework assignments and exams can help you front-load the work you will have to do in college applications.

So, consider setting yourself up for success by taking care of a few to-do items during the summer. The first, if you haven’t already, is requesting your teachers to be a recommender for you. This gives them ample time to work on your letter. It also allows you to 

Next, make a list of colleges you would like to apply to. Rank your schools as safeties, targets, and reaches. That way, on August 1st, when the Common App application is open, you can begin looking into what is needed for each application. The list doesn’t need to be finalized but having an idea beforehand can ensure that you have a strong start when writing supplemental essays and beginning applications. 

Finally, begin brainstorming for your Common App/Personal Statement Essay. This is the most important essay of your application. Having an idea or even a draft done over the summer checks off a big item from your to-do list during the school year. Use the summer to make your semester easier!

Semester 1

Summer is over and now you have arrived at your senior year. The dreaded semester for many, semester 1 of senior year is primarily a time of working on college applications. The first to-do item when entering your first semester is checking back in with your recommenders, counselor, and registrar. Ensure that you are all set in terms of sending in materials. 

Next, use this time to work on supplemental essays. This is a time-consuming task. But, you can make your life easier by organizing your applications based on when they are due (early decision vs. early action vs. regular decision vs. rolling admissions). Identify the essays you want to work on each week and set aside a few hours to prepare them. 

During this time, there are also a few scholarships you may want to apply to. Create a calendar of dates to help identify what you would like to work on to ensure you meet your deadlines. Before you know it, you will get into a smooth rhythm. Working with a Dewey Smart tutor during this time can be helpful to ensure that you don’t burn out since in addition to college applications, you will have to balance courses, extracurriculars, and more.

Semester 2

When January rolls around, your workload will likely change dramatically. With just a few more deadlines in January or some in March and April for rolling admissions, generally you will be done with most of your college-related work—an exciting prospect for many.

Save this time to work on scholarship applications. There are many different types of scholarships. Many students don’t consider applying to the ones that award smaller amounts of money. However, applying to several of these can add up quickly. These applications are often not as involved as college applications, and you might find that you can reuse a lot of the materials you submitted for your college applications. 

Of course, this is also the time to enjoy the last semester of your senior year. Take the time to participate in fun school activities, spend time with friends, and have a blast! 

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