Making it to high school graduation is a big deal. For most people, it’s taken 13 years of education since starting in kindergarten.
This is a time to celebrate, but also to start planning for the next step into adulthood. Taking care of the practical stuff now can allow more time to enjoy your senior year and relax before moving on to the next big thing.
To help get you started, check out these tips to close out high school on a high note and prepare for summer and beyond.
Preparing for High School Graduation
1. Keeping Up Your Grades
You’re almost across the finish line. Yet, slacking off and letting grades slip could be a red flag for the college you plan on attending in the fall.
The extent to which colleges look at senior year grades varies. If an A in calculus drops to a B, that’s probably not a cause for alarm. Rather, having grades fall below a college’s admissions standards could run the risk of a rescinded offer . Staying on top of your coursework and taking some challenging classes your senior year could pay off in the fall.
2. Ordering Your Cap and Gown
To attend high school graduation, you’ll likely have to look the part. If you have an older sibling or friend who graduated before you and is around your size, you can kindly ask to borrow their cap and gown, assuming it’ll match your classmates’ at graduation.
Renting a cap and gown could save money if that option is offered at your high school. Rentals may require a deposit and will likely need to be returned right after the ceremony to discourage graduates from walking off with them amid all the excitement.
If you go the rental route, you may still need to purchase a tassel unique to your graduating class. Traditionally, there is a moment during the cremenony when graduates are asked to flip their tassel from one side of their cap to the other, which signifies graduation.
3. Landing a Summer Job
Between hanging out with friends and going on family trips, you might have time to take on a part-time or full-time summer job. These experiences can help boost your resume and gain references for internships and jobs down the road.
Additionally, putting in some hours now can further pad your college savings for tuition and living expenses. If all goes well, you may be invited back to work next summer.
4. Managing Your Schedule and Setting Goals
College schedules can be a big adjustment for students. Instead of following a strict bell schedule like most high schools have, college students are responsible for managing their own schedules with little oversight.
Each college course’s credit hours usually indicate how many hours that class meets per week. Full-time students typically take between 12 and 18 credit hours each semester, which translates to roughly the same number of hours in class. This means college students have more flexibility than high school students in planning their schedule for completing homework and other assignments. That flexibility also means more responsibility for their own time management.
Students might consider preparing for this adjustment by trying out a few planning systems—e.g., paper, digital, or a combination of both—to see what works best for them so they’ll be ready to hit the ground running in the fall.
Some things to plan for, other than class schedules, might be a summer job schedule, family vacations, summer parties with friends, or savings goals.
5. Celebrating With Friends and Family
High school graduates have passed numerous milestones from kindergarten to senior year. Besides the homework and exams, many high schoolers have put countless hours into varsity sports, drama club, marching band, or other extracurricular activities.
High school graduation is a well-deserved moment to have fun and celebrate the culmination of these accomplishments. Whether you’re moving away for college or commuting from home, your schedule may change significantly.
Spending time with family and friends, attending senior activities, and throwing a graduation party are some ways to honor the occasion and process the transition.
6. Cleaning up Your Social Media Presence
High school can feel like a bubble. Some students have known each other since elementary school.
Upon graduating and leaving this familiar environment, graduates will encounter an influx of new friends, coworkers, employers, and professors. To put your best foot forward in these scenarios, it could be worth revisiting your social media posts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Many people have said or posted things online they aren’t proud of or no longer reflect their current opinions on a subject. Checking to see what posts you’re tagged in, too, can help refine your online presence and give peace of mind as you head into the “real world.”
In serious cases, colleges have rescinded students’ admission for inappropriate and offensive conduct on social media.
Preparing for College
While finishing senior year and taking care of high school graduation, getting ready for college is just around the corner. There are plenty of ways to prepare for college before the fall semester rolls around. Let’s take a look at some of the key things you may want to consider.
7. Completing the FAFSA®
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA® ) form is the first step in applying for federal student aid, which can include scholarships, grants, and loans, depending on a student’s eligibility.
Completing the FAFSA® is a yearly task for college students that usually requires reporting family income and other detailed information. The first time a student fills it out may be more time consuming than succeeding years, so planning ahead can help get the forms submitted on time to determine eligibility.
8. Applying for Scholarships and Grants
Colleges may offer scholarships and grants in an acceptance letter. This type of funding does not need to be repaid, but might have guidelines for what it can be spent on.
Some scholarships may stipulate the money be spent only on room and board, others may restrict the funds to the purchase of books, while others may have no restrictions.
Students may consider starting their search online and reaching out to their college admissions office.
Scholarships and grants might also be offered by nonprofits and other charitable organizations in a particular community. Identifying these opportunities ahead of time could mean ample time to prepare compelling essays and applications.
9. Researching Classes and Majors
Generally speaking, most programs do not require incoming freshmen to declare a major right away. Still, taking some time before registration to learn about different majors and general course requirements can help students figure out what they want to study, create a balanced schedule, and graduate on time.
10. Getting Ready to Move Away From Home
Students planning to attend college away from home may be feeling a mix of excitement and stress about moving. Putting that energy into planning for college living arrangements might alleviate some of those feelings.
If coordinating with roommates ahead of time is a possibility, students might consider splitting up the list of room necessities—one roomie can bring the microwave and another can bring the mini-fridge. If the college provides those things, there are many other items that can make the transition from home to college dorm easier.
11. Attending College Orientation
College orientations can occur in the middle of summer or at the beginning of the semester. Typically they’ll include a mix of informational sessions, campus tours, and social activities. Students are encouraged to keep an eye out for emails from their college with details regarding the schedule, move-in, and other important dates.
Paying for College
In addition to graduation plans, thinking about college classes, and considering future living arrangements, paying for college is an important piece of the puzzle for high school seniors.
After filling out the FAFSA® and applying for scholarships and grants, students will have a clearer picture of how much funding they have to put towards their education. Students who have held jobs during high school may also have personal savings to draw on.
If these sources aren’t enough, student loans could help fill the gap.
Brushing up on student loan information before borrowing money will help students make wise decisions that will affect their future finances.
Federal student loans carry fixed interest rates and can offer flexible repayment plans as well as other benefits. For that reason, it’s always recommended that students exhaust all federal aid options before considering private student loans.
Banks, credit unions, and other types of lenders may offer private student loans, but may not offer terms and conditions as favorable as federal student loan options. They may require a credit check, and repayment plans and interest rates can vary.
SoFi’s no-fee private student loans can be applied for online in just a few minutes. Loans can cover 100% of the cost of college attendance for undergrads, graduate and professional school students, and parents of college students.
Perks available to SoFi members include rate discounts on qualifying accounts, college entrance exam prep course discounts, and college financial planning.
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SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.
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