Rising seniors: here's how you can prepare for the year ahead

There’s no way around it: senior year is going to be hectic. Try to embrace the excitement – the year will fly by before you know it – and relish in knowing that you’re ready for the challenge. Today, Zen Admissions is highlighting three specific steps you can take right now to set yourself up for a great start to your senior year.

1. Create a year-long master calendar.

One of the common triggers of student burnout? Overload. When deadlines sneak up on you, they start to pile up, creating major stress and anxiety.

Prevent the cycle from starting by creating a year-long master calendar now. Include as much of the following information as possible (and plan to update the calendar when you receive additional dates/deadlines):

  • External admissions deadlines: application deadlines for every school on your list, financial aid form deadlines, university-based scholarship program deadlines
  • Internal admissions deadlines: any deadlines set by your school’s guidance/college counseling department, important school/local/regional scholarship deadlines
  • Academic deadlines and school dates: exam weeks, standardized test dates, winter/spring break schedules, major school events
  • Extracurricular schedule: season start and end dates, performances, presentations, travel plans – any important dates/deadlines relevant to you

Creating this calendar now will give you a clear sense of the year to come. You’ll see what the most intense weeks will be as well as when you’ll have extra time in your schedule to prepare for those intense times by getting things done in advance.

Don’t let stress catch you by surprise – if you start planning now, you’ll set yourself up for a calm, panic-free year.  

2. Start working on your top school's supplemental essays.

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve thought about your Common Application essay this summer. Hey, maybe you’re already on your fifth draft!

But have you given the same amount of thought to your top school’s supplemental essays?  

If you wait until you’ve finished your personal statement to start working on supplements, you might find yourself stuck in a rut on a tight deadline, especially if (a) the prompts are unusual (they often are), (b) you have a perfectionist streak (don’t we all), and/or (c) you REALLY want to get into this school.

Avoid the rut! Start brainstorming and outlining ideas for your dream school’s supplemental essays now (yes, even those “easy” short answers with a 100-word limit). You'll be doing a huge psychological favor for your future self, who won’t have to face Blank Page Panic when the application deadline gets closer.  

If you're battling a bad case of writer's block or just know you would benefit from smart, thoughtful feedback, submit your draft to our Insta-Edits Essay Review service or connect with one of our expert one-on-one essay coaches

3. Connect with recommendation letter writers. 

Before the first day of school, reach out to the teachers and mentors you want to write your recommendation letters.

Now is by far the best time to ask for a letter, as some teachers will get swamped by requests sooner than you think.

Make sure to share a brief explanation of why you hope they’ll recommend you (what you loved about their class or how their mentorship impacted you, for example), and share a copy of your resume when you make your request. You’ll feel so relieved to have finished this big task before the school year even begins.

Your letter writers might even give you an extra-glowing review thanks to your proactive moves.

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We would love to hear from you about how you make the most of your summer - send us an email and let us know what you're up to. Remember to check out our tips for rising freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, too. No matter what grade you're in, we hope you find something that helps you stay zen.