As school hallways fill back up and Friday football games commence, students are entering a busy time of year. For seniors, that means even more to do this fall. From experiencing their “last” high school experiences to navigating the road of college applications, there’s a lot to manage.  

To help students stay on track during college application season, here are a few top tips from a former Minnesota high school counselor. 

Be Mindful of Deadlines

With each college having varied deadlines for applications, it can be helpful to send out a list of compiled deadlines for each of your state colleges and local community colleges to students. It is important to also include early action and early decision deadlines as part of that list for students. These application deadlines will guide students’ timelines to ensure transcripts are correct and submitted, references are gathered, and more while ensuring they are submitted in time.

Provide Students with College Preparation Resources

It’s important to remember that students typically only go through the college application season once. This is all new territory for them, and likely for their family. A few helpful resources to help guide first-time applicants include:

In addition, student athletes that are looking to become collegiate athletes need to be registered with the NCAA Clearinghouse. Since students looking to compete on the NCAA level are not as common, this is often overlooked by students in the college application process but is a critical step to ensure they are set up for success. 

For schools that partner with Kuder, students have access to our college search features, which offer insights on the cost of colleges, the average academic standing of admitted students, major programs, and more all in one spot! Learn more about our college access tools. 

Identify Financial Resources & Cost Saving Opportunities

One of the biggest hurdles for students pursuing higher education as their postsecondary pathway is how to finance a college education. Plus, there are all the initial application fees that students face.  

Since the FAFSA application opening has been moved up to October 1st in the typical year (the deadline is in December for 2023) to better align with college application season, it’s recommended for students to get their application in as soon as possible. More funds are available closer to the opening of the FAFSA application compared to later in the season, which enables your students to have better access to funding. 

In addition, select states have special fee reduction time periods for in-state universities. This can be a great callout to students as you share application deadlines! 

Kuder’s college and career readiness solutions provide an array of financial search tools and a FAFSA guide to students. Contact us to learn more about implementing Kuder in your school district.

Guide Students on Reference Choices

The references that a student selects for their college applications can be critical to influencing their acceptance. In my years as a counselor, I’ve found that academic references are a great choice for students, as compared to personal references, coaches or employers.  
It’s important to guide students on asking educators or counselors they trust to write a positive letter of recommendation and to provide them with adequate time to complete it. On the flip side, it can be wise to remind teachers not to say “yes” to a reference request if they can’t write a positive letter.

Connect with First Generation Students

First generation students that are interested in exploring either a two-year or four-year college as their postsecondary pathway may need extra assistance. These students may not have the luxury of familial experience in the application process, gathering financial aid information, or taking advantage of scholarship opportunities. It’s also important to check in on students who may have not even considered college as an option for themselves since the entire process and finances can be especially daunting to first generation students. 

Engage with Students That Have an IEP

For students that may have an IEP or special graduation pathway, it’s important to ensure they are equipped with the resources to follow the next steps that align with their postsecondary goals. If you meet with these students one-on-one, you can help instruct them on communicating their needs within college applications and potentially coordinating personal outreach for accommodations.

While college application season is to be expected each year, the minute details and variance of deadlines, ACT/SAT requirements for scholarship tiers, and more can lead to unexpected challenges for new applicants. As you get a jumpstart on guiding students and providing them with comprehensive college exploration resources this year, remember that the work you do impacts these students for years to come and is vital to their postsecondary success.

About the Author

Michael Jensen holds over 25 years of experience as a lead school counselor from a large suburban public school district (Shakopee HS) in Minnesota. Michael’s passion is positively impacting students and educators. Since his years working directly with students, he has stayed involved in education by sharing his experiences with other teachers and counselors in his role with Kuder as an Account Executive, empowering them with comprehensive college and career planning solutions.