The Ultimate College Senior Checklist

By Jacqueline DeMarco · December 09, 2023 · 7 minute read

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The Ultimate College Senior Checklist

Senior year in college is often filled with mixed emotions — excitement for all the fun you’re going to have with your friends, eagerness to be done (a.k.a., senioritis), and anxiety about what you’re going to do after you graduate and what the future holds.

While leaving your college years behind can be bittersweet, it’s important to remember that the fun doesn’t stop after you return your cap and gown. By making the most of your senior year, you’ll have the perfect ending for these incredible four years and be ready to tackle life’s next chapter.

Below are key things to keep in mind as you focus on graduation, next steps in building a career, and finally living out your dreams.

Dotting I’s and Crossing T’s

Early in the fall, it’s a good idea to meet with your college counselor to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row in order to graduate. A lot can happen in three years — switching majors, adding minors, and studying abroad — so it can’t hurt to double-check that all of your requirements will be met by the end of the year.

Failing to earn all your required credits can mean delayed graduation, even adding on an extra semester. The finish line is close, but you’ll want to make sure that you stay on track. Also keep in mind that your last year in college is a last chance to take any out-of-the-box classes you’ve always wanted to take but never had time. You may finally have room in your schedule to add some fun electives.

If you’re planning to attend graduate school, you’ll also need to focus on finishing up any required testing and meeting application deadlines. Much like senior year of high school, you’ll begin an anxious time as you wait for acceptance letters to arrive.

💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? You could save thousands.

Getting a Jumpstart on a Job Search

Your senior year in high school was all about preparing for college. Your senior year in college is all about preparing for life after college, a.k.a the real world.

It’s no secret that college graduates flood the job market each June, so getting ahead of the pack can make your search a little easier. Applying for jobs as early as the fall can mean less competition and improve your chances of having a job lined up when you graduate.

Even if launching a full-blown job search during school isn’t possible, it’s a good idea to take some steps toward the professional world.

Consider stopping by the career center to see what resources it can provide. Part of your tuition goes to funding your college’s career services center, so why not get your money’s worth? Most career professionals are ready to help students prepare their resumes and perfect their cover letters, and they typically have job postings from companies looking to hire recent graduates.

Some career centers may offer mock interviews so students can hone those skills, or they may provide support when issues arise during a job search. Popping by between classes to see what services are offered will only take a few minutes.

In addition to your resume and cover letter, you’ll also want to start working on your LinkedIn profile and, if relevant, a portfolio of work samples. Having these resources in a good place during senior year can make it easy to start applying for jobs during school or right after graduation.

Recommended: Jobs that Pay for Your College Degree

Making Connections

As a student, building a professional network may feel impossible, but you’re likely building one in school without realizing it. One easy way to get a head start on a job search, without doing too much work during a hectic final year of school, is to tap into that network, namely your advisors or mentors.

Professors can be great resources to have as you prepare for the unknown of post-grad life. They can provide insights into what positions are available in your field, what you should look for in an employer, and good questions to ask in an interview. You might also ask a professor to look over your resume.

You might also look for a professional mentor through your college’s alumni network or mentor programs and set up an informational interview. Finding a mentor senior year of college can not only help you find your first job, but it can also pay career dividends for years to come.

Whether you start applying for positions while you’re still in school or right after graduation, you may need to provide a list of at least three references. These can be people like internship managers, your thesis professor, your part-time job supervisor, and others who can speak to your skills and work ethic. Now is a good time to reach out and ask potential referees if they would be willing to serve as references.

You may also want to attend and engage in networking at career fairs, career workshops, and other informational events taking place on campus.

Recommended: How to Get Involved on Campus in College

Paying Back Student Loans

Preparing to navigate life after college can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to finances. No one wants to think about student loan payments, but it can be helpful to start making repayment plans before graduation day.

You can begin the planning process by simply looking up the current balance for each student loan you hold, including both federal and private student loans. Take note of when the lender expects payment. Some or all of your student loans could have a six-month grace period before you need to start repaying. This is ideal because it gives you time to get a job after graduation and make sense of your income before you have a new bill to pay.

Lenders typically provide repayment information during the grace period, including repayment options.

With federal student loans, your servicer will automatically place you on the Standard Repayment Plan (a 10-year fixed payment repayment plan). However, you can request a different repayment plan at any time. Typically, you can pick from repayment plans that base your monthly payment on your income or that give you a fixed monthly payment over a set repayment period.

An income-driven repayment plan may be a smart choice if you’re looking to lower your payment. However, these plans also extend the payoff timeline to 20 or 25 years. The Federal Student Aid website has a loan simulator tool that lets you compare all the available repayment options and helps you choose the best one for your specific situation.

For private student loan repayment, it can be best to speak directly with the loan originator about repayment options. Many private student loans require payments while the borrower is still in school, but some offer deferred repayment. After the grace period, you will need to begin making principal and interest payments. Some lenders offer repayment programs with budget flexibility.

Whether you or your parents chose to take out federal or private student loans (or both) to cover school costs, reviewing all possible payment plan options can help make the transition to repayment easier.

💡 Quick Tip: Federal parent PLUS loans might be a good candidate for refinancing to a lower rate.

One Loan, One Monthly Payment

As you enter the repayment phase of your student loans, you might also consider refinancing or consolidating your student debt.

If you have federal student loans, you may qualify for a federal Direct Consolidation Loan after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment.

Consolidating multiple federal loans into one allows you to make just one loan payment each month. In some cases, the repayment schedule may be extended, resulting in lower payments. Keep in mind, though, that increasing the period of time to repay loans usually means making more payments and paying more total interest.

Refinancing, on the other hand, allows you to convert multiple loans — federal and/or private — into one new private loan with a new interest rate, repayment term, and monthly payment. Refinancing can potentially save you money, but generally only makes sense if you can qualify for a lower interest rate than you currently have. For example, refinancing might be a good solution for working graduates who have higher-interest federal loans, such as unsubsidized Direct Loans and Graduate PLUS loans, or who currently have a high-interest private student loan.

You’ll want to keep in mind, however, that refinancing federal student loans with a private lender means giving up federal protections, such as income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness for public service, and deferment options.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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