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Illustration by Ramaya Thomas/VOX ATL

8 Successful Steps for Seniors Applying to College, From a Recent High School Graduate

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As a recent graduate of high school, writing this is bittersweet, but I believe these steps and tips will help rising seniors who are approaching their college application process. These steps are coming from a graduate who got into every school she applied to and received a full academic merit scholarship to one of her top HBCUs. These steps will look different for everyone, but the foundations of these steps can possibly help make your process a little easier. Good luck and enjoy your senior year! 


Your senior year is going to be filled with a thousand emails, dates, assignments, and events. But the most important dates during your senior year are when your college applications and essays are due. These are set dates you don’t want to miss. From when your early application/early decision applications may be due or when your transcripts may need to be sent, it is important to keep yourself organized with a planner or calendar in order to keep all of these dates in mind and your stress low.

Some good resources to use: Google Calendar, physical planners with calendars within them for the entire year, (app), Done: A simple Habit Tracker (app). 


Resumes come in handy when it comes to the common app college application where you will have to list your top activities, community service, and leadership work. Although you won’t be able to directly upload this resume, it helps you pick and choose which aspects represent you the most. You won’t have to spend time trying to remember all of the amazing things you’ve done because they are already organized in one document. Resumes also come in handy for opportunities outside of college applications and truly set you apart as a student who can pull up their resume that reflects them perfectly. 

Check out my “HOW TO BUILD YOUR RESUME” article for help on how to set up your document, information to include, and ways to help personalize it to you. 

Network (recommendations) 

Your network should be maintained and created prior to this college application season. Your network is a group of individuals, spaces, or organizations that you grow and maintain a professional relationship with. Through this maintenance comes the opportunity for people to write you recommendation letters. These people can be staff members, guidance counselors, or community leaders who you have built relationships with and they can write about the amazing things you have not only done but can bring to the table. Make sure that you are creating strong relationships with your teachers, mentors, and more as they play a large role in your college application process. 

Check out my “SIX THINGS TEENS CAN USE TO HELP GROW AND MAINTAIN THEIR NETWORK” article for more details about building your network. 

Work on essays early 

“When you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.” Always being prepared helps you immensely during your senior year as there is so much going on. Working on your personal statement or thinking of ideas of what you could write about during the beginning of the year helps take a huge load off your back before having to balance your classes and applications at the same time. 

Some resources to help you with your personal statement/essays: College Essay Guy , Osazi College Coaching , and reaching out to your english/literature teachers. 

Be authentic, be you 

I think this is the most important step I could tell you. There is no other student like you. Your college application process is more than just getting good grades, it’s about representing authenticity, and what that truth can bring to the college’s campus. A question to consider during your college application process is “What makes me truly stand out?”

When you find the answer to this question, build your essays around your response. Build your essays around things that truly make you stand out and help build your character and overall story. When you find this answer not only will it help you in writing your college application essays but will help you in possible interviews you will have to do, scholarship opportunities, and more. 

Do your research

Please, please, please do your fair share of research about institutions that stand out to YOU. Make a list about pros and cons about each school or a list of things you would like in a college/university. It’s important that you spend a good amount of time researching and planning tours if possible (which can be virtual or in person), to understand what you need, desire, and would make you happy the next four years you’ll be spending at that specific school. 

Set aside time for scholarships

As many know, college can be quite expensive. It’s important to make the best financial decision for you. For many, scholarships have helped release a big financial burden off of their shoulders regarding the cost for college. During my college application process I dedicated a few days and hours out of my week to research and apply for different institutional, organizational, and communal scholarships. I often realized that many of the scholarships were asking similar questions, so I kept a specific document of all of the scholarship questions I had written essays for incase I could reuse them in the future, which helped me out a lot. 

Some resources to find scholarships:,, asking the college/university what scholarships they have to offer for students, reaching out to law firms, churches, greek organizations, and leaders in your community. 

Have fun 

Your college application process is truly what you make of it. Enjoy the moments of applying to the schools you’ve always imagined, don’t limit yourself, and spread your wings. This is a year you’ll never forget, so have fun while it lasts. 

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