Rising Seniors College Admissions Checklist: Four Summer Focus Areas

Posted by Kimberly Hewitt on Saturday, June 17, 2017


With junior year classes in the rearview mirror, summer is the time for rising seniors to roll up their sleeves and lay the foundation for a successful college application process.  In this post, we’ll run through a checklist of four college admissions priorities for rising seniors to work on this summer.  Specifically, we’ll show you how to finalize your college list (the one thing upon which nearly all other decisions depend), determine your SAT/ACT plans, begin essays and applications, and identify financial aid and scholarships.  The checklist includes two essay planning exercises which many of our students have used as the basis for highly successful college application essays.  Let’s get to work!


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1. First Things First: Finalize Your College List


All roads lead from where you would like to apply!  The colleges on your list will determine which standardized tests you need to take (and what kind of score you need in order to be a competitive applicant/candidate), what kind of and how many essays you will need to write, what kind of scholarship opportunities may be available, what other application deliverables you may need to prepare, application/testing/scholarship deadlines, and more.


We’ve written an entire post with a framework for Developing Your College List, but here’s the basic task: Finalize your list of 6 – 10 colleges, making sure that your list includes a balanced mix of “reach,” “match,” and “likely” schools (determined by comparing your GPA, SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Test scores, and coursework rigor against the norms for a given college).


Get professional guidance in developing your college list and determining majors through one of our college admissions consulting programs: Check out our College List Plan.


Frontier Tutoring has also partnered with Grace Christian School to offer College Boot Campa three-day college list, essay, application, and interview workshop for rising seniors, August 24-27, 2017.


2. Get the Scores You Want on the SAT/ACT and SAT Subject Tests




Where you are applying impacts the score you should aim for on the SAT or ACT in order to be a competitive candidate.  (Check out The Frontier 49 College Admissions Factbook to view SAT/ACT score norms for 49 popular colleges nationwide).


If your college application deadlines are in December or earlier, you have a limited amount of time to take the SAT or ACT for the final time.  Scores from the new August SAT date, September ACT date, and October SAT/ACT test dates will be released in time for nearly all applications; November test date scores will be released in time for many applications; and December test date scores will be released in time for some applications.  Check each college’s website for specific deadlines.


Remember that all colleges accept either the SAT or ACT, so if you haven’t tried both tests, take a free practice SAT or ACT to see where you stand.  After you take the practice test(s), we can help you determine which test better suits your strengths and how your score compares against the colleges you’re interested in applying to.


If, within the last 6 months, I have taken a practice or official…

Then I should take a…


Practice SAT


Practice ACT


Here are some of the key dates and deadlines for summer/fall 2017 testing before many college applications are due:




Official SAT

SAT Registration Deadlines

Frontier Tutoring

SAT Prep Class Starts

August 26, 2017 (New)

Regular: July 28

Late Online: August 16

July 16

October 7, 2016

Regular: September 8

Late Online: September 27

August 27

November 4, 2017

Regular: October 5

Late Online: October 25

September 24

December 2, 2017

Regular: November 2

Late Online: November 21

October 22





Official ACT Date

ACT Registration Deadlines

Frontier Tutoring

ACT Prep Class Starts

September 9, 2017

Regular: August 4

Late Online: August 18

August 5

October 28, 2017

Regular: September 22

Late Online: October 6

September 23

December 9, 2017

Regular: November 3

Late Online: November 17

November 4


We’re happy to answer questions about your SAT/ACT plans.  Give us a call or sign up for North to My Future, your free, individualized college admissions and testing strategy session.


For a more detailed overview of testing strategy, check out our post: When to Prepare for and Take the SAT/ACT.


SAT Subject Tests


If you’re interested in applying to competitive colleges, including most Ivy League institutions, you will need to submit scores from two SAT Subject Tests in addition to the regular SAT/ACT.


About 40 colleges require or recommend SAT Subject Tests for admissions purposes, while another 50 or so will consider SAT Subject Test scores if submitted with a student’s application.  Some common colleges where Alaska students apply that require or recommend SAT Subject Tests include Stanford, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Dartmouth, Cornell, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, and Duke.


We have an entire post covering Six Things to Know About SAT Subject Tests, but here are the basics:


  • SAT Subject Tests are 1 hour in length and cover material specific to a single subject (e.g., Math Level 2, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English Literature, U.S. History, etc.).

  • Check the admissions website for any colleges you are considering to see whether it requires SAT Subject Tests.

  • Because the testing pool for SAT Subject Tests is a self-selecting population (only students who wish to attend highly competitive colleges take the tests), the scores required to be a competitive applicant tend to be extremely high. For example, to achieve a score in the 75th percentile on the Math Level 2 test, a student must score 780 out of 800.


SAT Subject Tests will be offered during the new August SAT date.  If you still need to take these tests, we recommend doing so in August since you will have time to prepare for the tests this summer before senior year classes and college applications become an additional demand on your time.


Need help preparing for your SAT Subject Tests?  Consider our SAT Subject Test Prep programs, which include 6 hours of one-on-one instruction, where we will orient you to the format and strategy of each test, as well as review the key content you may have forgotten since you last took the corresponding class.


3. Begin Essays & Applications




Essay prompts have already been released for the Common Application for the high school class of 2018.  The Common App is used by many popular colleges including Stanford, USC, Colorado State, and Gonzaga.  With the prompts already available, you can and should begin brainstorming and planning your essays now before you become consumed with schoolwork, any remaining testing, and other parts of the application process.  (Note: The Common Application site will be offline for its annual refresh from July 24, 2017 through until August 1, 2017).


Here are two essay brainstorming exercises which many of our students have used as the basis for highly successful application essays:


Exercise 1: Write 25 unique facts about yourself.


Exercise 2: Write a vignette (a short story/anecdote) from each year of your life for as far back as you can remember. Choose events, moments, or experiences that affected your life and had an impact on who you are today.


Familiarize yourself with the Common App’s and other colleges’ essay prompts and start exercises like these today.  That way you’ll have a few weeks to brainstorm experiences  (challenges overcome, lessons learned, etc.) that address the topics in a way that demonstrates your character and fits within the overall “theme” of your application.


Next, can also check out post on Frontier Tutoring's college application essay planning approach, which includes an actual essay one of our students used in her successful application to the U.S. Air Force Academy.


Learn about our premium College Admissions Consulting plans, where you can work with our certificated college counselor to plan and polish your college application essays.


Frontier Tutoring has also partnered with Grace Christian School to offer College Boot Campa three-day college list, essay, application, and interview workshop for rising seniors, August 24-27, 2017.



4. Explore Scholarships


Once you have finalized your college list, you should take some time to review the financial aid that may be available at each institution—and particularly merit-based scholarships, which you may earn based on your GPA, SAT/ACT scores, or other similar criteria.  If you need to raise your SAT/ACT scores to qualify for one of these scholarships, now is the time to establish your new target score and begin preparing accordingly.


If you intend to go to college in Alaska, you should be familiar with the Alaska Performance Scholarship, which provides up to $19,020 in scholarship funding over four years depending on your GPA and SAT/ACT scores.


But did you know that many out-of-state institutions offer similar merit-based scholarships?  For example, at Colorado State University, students who have a GPA of 3.5 and an ACT score of 28 can earn over $36,000 in scholarship funding over four years.  For other examples, check out our The Frontier 49 College Admissions Factbook, which previews some in-state and out-of-state scholarships based on your GPA and/or SAT/ACT scores


A quick note about your GPA: For many merit-based scholarships (including the Alaska Performance Scholarship), determination of eligibility is made based on your entire high school transcript—so depending on the terms of the specific scholarship, you may still have up to two semesters to boost your GPA for scholarship qualification if needed (and conversely, if you have already achieved the required GPA, work hard during senior year to maintain it!).  Learn more about your high school GPA—and how much you may still be able to improve it during senior year—by reading our post, Four Facts About Your High School GPA for College Admissions.


Finally, speaking of financial aid and scholarships, it’s worth mentioning that the  FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) will begin accepting applications on October 1, 2017 (prior to the high school class of 2017, the application opened on January 1 of the student’s senior year).


Other Checklist Items for Rising Seniors


  • If it’s an option, consider scheduling college visits during the few weeks remaining this summer to help refine your college list

  • If you aspire to be a college athlete, download our free e-book, Pathway to Playing Collegiate Athletics, for an overview of the athletics recruiting process and other requirements you should be considering. For professional guidance, consider our premium athletics advising plans.


Getting to Work


Between finalizing your college list, determining your SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Test strategy, planning for essays, and figuring out financial aid, there’s a lot to think about over the next few months—but if you start now, you can complete every step methodically and minimize stress.


The college admissions experts at Frontier Tutoring are also here to help.  Get expert guidance with North to My Future, your free, individualized college admissions strategy session for students in Anchorage.  We’ll sit down with you for 45 minutes and discuss how your GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and entire profile compare relative to the norms for the colleges and scholarships you’re considering.  We’ll also develop an action plan of specific priorities for you between now and when it’s time to apply.  If our SAT/ACT prep, college admissions consulting, or academic tutoring programs are appropriate, we will also provide recommendations on how you can best use these professional resources.


We wish you success in this final stage of your high school career!


Sign Up for My FREE College Planning Meeting


Summary of Resources in This Post


Free Programs

North to My Future - Free College Admissions Strategy Session

Free Practice SAT/ACT


Blog Posts, E-Books, and Tools

The Ultimate Guide to Designing Your SAT & ACT Prep Strategy

When to Prepare for and Take the SAT/ACT

Six Things to Know About SAT Subject Tests

Four Facts About Your High School GPA for College Admissions

A Four-Fold Framework for Developing Your College List


Paid Programs

SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Test Prep

Academic Tutoring

College Admissions Consulting (One-on-One Programs)

College Boot Camp 2017 (College Application Workshop for Rising Seniors)



Topics: Financial Aid & Scholarships, ACT, SAT, College Admissions: Explore Early, College Admissions: Excel Academically, College Admissions: Build Your Application Assets, 12th Grade - Seniors, College Admissions: Apply Right, College Admissions: Test Well, Anchorage