Preparing for your Senior Year

     Student

Juniors, now is a great time to start preparing for your senior year. Check out this list we've put together for you!

As schools across the state continue to operate remotely, many students are wondering what they are missing or what they can be doing now to prepare for next year. These are great questions to have, especially for current juniors and their parents as they look toward final college and career planning. Though written with Juniors as the targeted audience, Freshman and Sophomore students can also begin using these suggestions as well.

  1.  Build a resume or brag sheet that highlights significant milestones, accomplishments, academic and community service work you have completed.  Although a transcript can show your academic performance, it is always a good idea to include mention of any struggles you had and how you overcame them. Remember, the resume or brag sheet is your way to share who you are as a person and not just a student. The more information you can list, the more information you can give to anyone you request a letter of recommendation from.

  2. Letters of Recommendation: Begin thinking of who you can request a written letter of recommendation from. Be strategic so that you have a diverse group of recommenders that you can use and that together, demonstrate you are a well-rounded person. Do not just ask a selection of teachers or coaches as they will usually just reflect on you as a student or athlete. Be sure to get one or two letters from school teachers and/or coaches but be sure to also obtain a couple from people you know outside of school (i.e.: an employer, a church member, a 4-H or other volunteer leader/mentor).  

  3. Create a professional email address: Although hotstuff2002@email.com is fun and has meaning between you and your family or friends, you must consider what message your personal email address might send to a college, job or scholarship application review team. Now is the time to show you are serious about your future and create a professional email. FuturePsychologist@email.com or FirstnameLastname@email.com are suggested email formats as they speak to you as an individual and/or career focused applicant.  

  4. Federal Student Aid Identification or FSA ID: If you are planning to go to college, now is a great time to set up your FSA ID. This is the username and password you will need before you can complete and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Both the student and one parent/guardian will need to have an FSA ID prior to October 1 when the online FAFSA application opens. Go to http://fsaid.ed.gov for more information and to set up your FSA ID.

  5. Visit College:  If you plan to attend any higher education provider (2- or 4-year college/university, Trade school) now is the time to plan a campus tour. It might seem unimportant to physically visit the campuses you are considering but sometimes being there will help you select between one or two you might be considering. Although adds for schools and programs look great, marketing is aimed at drawing in students. An in-person visit is the only way for you to make certain you like the environment, feel safe on campus, and experience the feel of being a student before committing to a school or program that isn’t right for you. Be sure to visit the program office of any field of study you are considering. Ask questions of the tour guide, dorm directors, and students.

  6. Apply for Scholarships: Now is the time to begin preparing for, and when possible, applying for scholarships that will support your college/career plans. Although most scholarships will not become available until after July 1 between your Junior and Senior year, consider using the spring and summer and contact related businesses to inquire on any possible scholarships they might have. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself to them and then ask if they might have a scholarship or grant available to help you meet the financial obligations associated with your higher education plans. Now is also a great time to look at questions that previous recurring scholarships have asked and begin formatting a well thought out response that can be used when your scholarships open. It is strongly recommended that you pre-write two or three responses addressing commonly referenced topics including but not limited to volunteerism/community service, how the scholarship will help you meet your end goal, or how you plan to give back to your community upon completion of higher education classes.  

  7. Summer Jobs, Youth Apprenticeships: Because money is always needed whether you are aiming for a certificate credential, an associates, bachelors or higher degree, summer is a great time to work and explore fields you are considering. Plan to seek a job or apprenticeship aligned with your planned career. This will allow you to experience first hand the reality of the work you are interested in. You may find that your dream job is not really what you thought it would be and this is a great time to realize that. Through a job or apprenticeship, you can avoid spending thousands of dollars on a program that isn’t really what you wanted to be. You might even find an alternate, yet associated, program that you really like so that when you look at applying to school, you can be specific in the courses you need to take to earn the desired credentials for the job.  BE sure to use co-workers as a resource. Talk about how they got where they are in the field, what struggles they had, what would they do different now, and what challenges they had that no one had prepared them for. This is the time to explore, make money, and gain valuable knowledge from others in your chosen field.

  8. You are not alone! Remember that the path to a career or higher education degree is not easy.  You may have questions but don’t know who to turn to for help. Reach Higher Montana has outstanding Outreach Advisors that are here to help you through your planning processes.  ReachHigherMontana.org is a great source of information. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.

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