How to navigate college applications and scholarships for seniors

The process of college admissions can seem daunting at first for the unprepared high school senior, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the vast amount of colleges and scholarships available. But there are a couple of things that seniors can do to make this experience a little bit easier, and maybe even enjoyable. Here is a basic guide to the college admissions process. 


Finding Schools

The best way to narrow down schools is to find what factors are most important to each individual. For instance, some people really value individual instruction and bonding with professors, so they should use class size as one of their top priorities when looking for schools. Determine what factor (size, location, cost, majors available, etc.) is most important, and then go from there. Especially if you already have a specific major in mind, look for schools that have internships and jobs specifically for that major, or are ranked nationally for their programs. 



Most schools have students apply through the common application, which is a website where students can make an account and apply to multiple schools through one application. Making a profile is the easiest way to get your information into multiple applications at once. Especially if students plan to apply to more than one school. In most cases aiming for around four-six applications is a safe way to go. Each student should consider what schools are reach, safety and target schools, and go forward from there. Only applying to reach schools is not a good idea because it is likely you will have no backup if rejected. If your dream college has an acceptance rate below 50 percent, make sure that you apply to a couple of safety schools, just in case.  Most schools do have an acceptance fee, but many private colleges offer fee waivers if you contact your admissions counselor. 


COVID and Test Optional Policies

Many colleges now are offering test optional policies, where students are not required to submit ACT or SAT scores when applying due to the lack of testing availability during quarantine. For some students, omitting a test score will help their chances of admission and can hurt others. I would recommend looking at the average ACT/SAT of the school you are applying to, and if your score matches or is above that, submit scores with your application. If the score is significantly below the average, it might be beneficial to omit. Just remember that excluding test scores means other parts of your application hold a lot more weight in the admissions decision. Make sure that other components, like GPA and class load, are reflective of the school you are applying to. 


Affording College

There are three main ways to fund college: scholarships, grants and financial aid. The best way to see how much your expected family contribution is is to take time with parents to sit down and fill out the FAFSA, which will give your family a better understanding of how to afford college. For some families, college funding may not be an issue, but for most, it’s important to know how much of your college will be funded by other sources. 


Finding Scholarships

One of the easiest ways to find scholarships is to visit the CFHS counseling website, where they list local scholarships available. Many scholarships are based on what students are pursuing after college, such as specific majors and awards given only to students attending Iowa colleges. There are also many national scholarship opportunities available, but they are much more competitive and often require more work. 

There are so many scholarships that are not taken advantage of because of a lack of applicants, so the best thing for seniors to do is apply, apply, apply. There are so many scholarships available, and some great websites that offer databases for them. If you have a passion for something, chances are there’s a scholarship available. 

A great way to keep track of scholarship applications and due dates is to make a google spreadsheet. That way you can keep track of where you are in applying, and how much money you have acquired. 

Another great resource for scholarships is RaiseMe, which is an app and website. This allows students to collect microscolarships for participating colleges, where they reward smaller amounts of money for smaller accomplishments. For instance, many colleges offer a couple hundred bucks for each A on your transcript. These little scholarships can add up to a large sum of money in the end. You can download RaiseMe on the app store. 

Keep in mind that many colleges automatically consider you for scholarships when you apply. These are usually based on ACT scores and GPA, so try to keep those high if you are looking for easy scholarships. 


Although this process may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that seniors have so many resources available to them for help. If you are feeling overwhelmed or lost, reach out to your counselor, or even admission counselors at specific colleges. They are here to help guide you through all of these different steps. Making this decision may be hard, but definitely not impossible. 


You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.