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High School Senior Spring — Now What Happens?

Diane Schwemm

If your high school senior was accepted to college Early Decision or Early Action, or has other plans for next year, you may be sailing through this winter (well, in some places wading through blizzards and slip-sliding on ice) with a sparkle in your eye and lots of energy to finally spend on your own life and goals.

However, if you are anything like I was when my youngest applied to college with the "strategy" of submitting pplications just hours before the various deadlines, you may need some moral support right now — not to mention a playbook for the next few weeks and months.

Even the parents and supporters of students who are “in” (having been accepted to one or more schools on their list) may be dealing with a serious case of “Senioritis." And in 2021, the pandemic isn't making this easier, that's for sure.

Here are some ways to help your senior stay on top of things, plus support their (and your own) emotional wellbeing:

1. Stay Grounded

First and foremost, we can help our seniors stay calm. Families and friends also need to keep perspective. It’s hard to tune out the noise coming from other parents and their kids, in real life and on social media, but it's worth trying.

When you talk about college, remember that what matters isn’t the prestige of a school where your student may (or may not) be admitted, but having options for next year to feel excited about. Not getting into a top choice school will hurt; we can help them acknowledge their disappointment and move on.

2. Read Email

After receiving an application, colleges and universities typically contact the applicant by email. Sometimes they email parents and guardians as well about financial aid, honors opportunities, etc. This doesn’t mean your student is “in” but they should definitely open all emails from the school. If their application is incomplete, they should take care of this ASAP!

Reading email regularly is a good habit to get into BEFORE college.

3. Apply for Financial Aid

Be sure all financial aid application materials have been submitted. This may just mean submitting the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) but many schools also require the CSS Profile and sending tax returns via IDOC.

Priority financial aid deadlines may have passed, but it is still worth applying to be considered for both need-based aid from the government and/or merit aid from the school.

4. Keep the Month of April Open

That’s when many schools host admitted student programs (day or overnight). Unless your student’s choice is crystal clear, you may want to visit or revisit a few campuses as time and money allows. During the pandemic, many of these events will be online but still very worth participating in.

Click here to read "How to Choose 'The One' Without a Final Campus Visit" >

5. Submit One More Application?

Should your student consider submitting another application? Only if they’re unsure they’ll have options they feel good about (for example, if they've already received disappointing news from schools with early or rolling admissions). Many universities — mostly public, but a few privates, too — have rolling/late deadlines, some as late as May.

6. Enjoy the Time That's Left

Meanwhile, we're supporting young people who have an ocean of swirling emotion under the surface (sometimes erupting in a geyser). They may also be testing their limits, a little or a lot. A friend of mine compared it to "living with a bad roommate."

I had to remind my own kids to stay focused on school, but I also understood that they wanted to spend time with friends. Mostly I always tried to stay alert for those moments when they might unexpectedly share something important about how they were feeling. I honestly never knew when it would happen.

What we do know for this year's high school seniors: The finish line is in sight.

They'll get there, and so will we. In fact, maybe we shouldn't be in such a rush. Can we slow down a bit, walk the last lap? There’s much to enjoy about senior spring, for them and for us. Graduation will be here soon enough.

Keep reading!

Comparing Financial Aid Award Letters
Your Student's Been Waitlisted — Now What?
4 Steps to a Great Gap Year Experience
Options for the Non-College-Bound Senior
Making the Final College Choice

Diane Schwemm is a writer and Managing Editor at CollegiateParent. She and her husband are parents of a college student and two recent graduates. In her off hours, she likes to read, hike and garden and, thanks to the influence of her family, appreciates ballet and basketball equally.
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