Congratulations on making it to your final year of high school!  This year will be an exciting year for you as you make your transition to adulthood and on to your next role in life as a college student or a full-time employee.  This year can bring about a pot of mixed emotions as there are many dates and deadlines to remember and so many things to do. Just remember your counselor is here for you whenever you need to talk it out!

    Below is a breakdown of what you should be doing this year.  

    • Take (or re-take) the SAT and/or ACT College Entrance Exams. The SAT is required by most colleges and most students take this extremely important exam as juniors. Many re-take it as seniors to try to improve their scores. Register online at www.collegeboard.org.  If one or more of the colleges you are applying to require the ACT exam, register online at www.actstudent.org
    • Senior Conference.  Each senior meets individually with his or her counselor to review graduation and course requirements and post-graduation plans.  A college application timeline is formalized at this meeting.   
    • Start checking for scholarships.  Constantly check this website, Remind, and emails. New scholarships come in at different times during the year and they aren't just for the "straight A" students.
    • Visit some college campuses.  Try to schedule some college visits this fall.  Interview some students, faculty and staff if possible. 
    • Gather all application materials.  Get an application packet from every college you are thinking about applying to.  If you're applying to an out-of-state or private college, you'll probably need to call or e-mail the admissions office to request the materials. Once you have all the application packets, read through them to get a feel for what's required and what's involved in applying.  You will be able to apply to most colleges online through the Common Application.  
    • Start your college application essay(s) early.  Most schools require essays as part of their application packet. Even if the essay is optional, do it!  It is the first "test" to see how much time you will spend on that college's application. Get the topic and start writing it early.  Try to make your essay compelling and be sure it reflects your best effort.  Give it lots of thought, edit, spell-check and ask for feedback from an English teacher, counselor, parent, etc.
    • Finalize your college choices.  Decide on at least six potential colleges.  You should be thinking about some "reach" schools, "target" schools and "safety" schools.  This pertains to academic, as well as financial, considerations.
    • Make a list; check it twice.  Make a checklist for each college you are going to apply to.  Include all the pieces of information that need to be assembled (i.e., forms, recommendations, essays, transcripts, etc.) and all deadlines (including when the application must be postmarked).  This will help you break the application job into smaller parts. It will also help you stay organized, calm, and on track. 
    • Request recommendation letters.  NOW is the time to ask teachers, school counselors, coaches, and employers for letters of recommendation related to your activities and employment.  These will be required for college applications.  Ask for the recommendations in person.  If a teacher, school counselor, or coach agrees to write you a recommendation letter, be sure to provide them with all forms that they must complete and stamped, addressed envelopes to send your recommendations directly to the colleges.  Be sure to write a thank-you note to each person who provides a recommendation.
    • Request your transcript from your counselor.  Each college that you apply to requires an official transcript directly from Raymond HS. Complete the transcript request form and submit it to your counselor with any additional forms that she may have to complete (i.e., counselor recommendation form, secondary school report, transcript request, etc.) along with a stamped, addressed envelope to the college in neat, legible handwriting. You may email a request to shaharris@hinds.k12.ms.us for a transcript to be sent to a school. 
    • Plan now for a smoother financial aid application process --- Apply for your FAFSA pin number in October and start gathering financial information.  Virtually all colleges require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to apply for financial aid.  Visit FAFSA on the Web at www.fafsa.ed.gov and sign up for your personal pin number.  This is also a good time to print out the worksheets for filling out the FAFSA so you'll know what's involved and can begin gathering the financial records. 
    • Complete the FAFSA form. Submit the form as soon as possible after October 1. Some schools require it as early as January 1, but be sure to submit it no later than March 1.  You improve your chances of receiving financial aid if you submit your forms early. Colleges are handing out aid as the applications come in and there IS a limit to how much they have to give.  Get your application in late and all their available money may be gone.
    • Find out if colleges require the CSS/Financial Aid Profile. Some colleges (mostly private schools) require this special form, which is essentially a supplement to the FAFSA.  The College Board website has a list of the schools that require it, but it's always better to check with the college directly.  
    • Call the financial aid offices to find out if they require any other special financial forms of their own. This is most common at private colleges. If they require specialized forms, ask them to mail them to you now. Find out the deadlines for all financial aid forms now. 

    • Continue checking for scholarships every week on this website.
    • Finish up your college applications.  Some early action deadlines are November 1st. Grab and complete a college application fee waiver. They are in Dr. Harris' office.  A form is also available for download on this website under Forms.

    • Try to finish your college applications by December 1.  Even if the college's official deadline is March 1, it's better to get your application in to your counselor by December 1.  You'll be ahead of the game and able to shift your focus to financial aid applications, scholarships and simply enjoying your senior year. Unless you thrive on stress, there is no good reason to wait until the last minute to begin working on college applications. 
    • If you're still applying to colleges, get those applications filled out and submitted as soon as possible, allowing at least three weeks for processing. Keep in mind counselors are often on vacation over the December break; not reviewing college applications. January 1st deadlines should be turned in to your counselor by December 1st at the latest.

    Review the list above.  Are you on schedule?  Have you skipped anything?  Not on track?  Stop by to see your counselor ASAP! 

    • January and February are financial aid months.  Look for notification of financial aid seminars and other similar programs throughout the county and state. 
    • Apply for financial aid through the state of Mississippi.    
          Remember to keep copies of all financial aid forms you submit.
    • Apply for outside funding and scholarships.  Keep checking for scholarship applications every week and explore other sources.  For example, parents might belong to organizations or work in businesses that award scholarships.  Ask around. Visit Fastweb, the Internet's largest free scholarship search.  

    • Make sure your FAFSA has been completed and submitted by March 1.  
    • Check on mid-year transcripts.  Did you tell your counselor which colleges want mid-year transcripts? Stop in the Counseling office or email your Counselor and confirm they were mailed.
    • Watch for your Student Aid Report (SAR).  This is a one-page summary of the FAFSA information you submitted.  It is sent to you to confirm the accuracy of all data one last time before it is forwarded to your colleges.  Occasionally the SAR will note that information is missing or incomplete.  In all cases, follow directions on the SAR and return it as quickly as possible.  If you have not received your Student Aid Report within five weeks after sending in your FAFSA, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center. The report arrives by mail or by email if you filed the FAFSA electronically. 
    • Rank your college choices while you wait for responses to your applications.

    • Watch the mail for college acceptance letters. They typically start arriving in April.
    • Compare financial aid packages from each college.  If a financial aid offer is not what you expected, do not hesitate to contact the college's financial aid office to discuss your concerns.  They may have the ability to adjust the offer.
    • Make a decision on which college you will attend and send them your formal acceptance.

    • May 1st - National Decision Day (and beyond):
    • Submit your deposit and corresponding forms to the college you will be attending. Be sure to call the admissions and financial aid office of the colleges that you will not be attending.
    • Watch for important deadlines at your college of choice.  These may include housing deposits, financial aid and more.
    • Request your final transcript to be sent to your college.  

    Have a fun, relaxing, and safe summer and good luck in college, your apprenticeship, or career!