shining moments photography, SMP, high school seniors, sycamore illinois photographer

Have You Started The College Search?

The college search in COVID times.

If you’re a high school Senior {or Junior} you should be starting the college search. Life goes pretty fast, but if you plan ahead, you can ENJOY IT ALL!

This week I’m writing about how to get organized for your college search in a time when it feels like we’re characters in the game of Jumanji.

Which actor are you?

Jack Black, The Rock, Robin Williams {the original for us oldies}…

shining moments photography, SMP, high school seniors, sycamore illinois photographer

Senior year is a celebration!

Yes. It’s shaping up to look very different from last Fall’s start. It’s unknown what type of LASTS you’ll get to celebrate or how your college visits to campus’ will look. But getting creative + looking ahead is one piece WE DO HAVE CONTROL OVER.

The ‘sames’ that should be on repeat are focusing on your grades, strong study habits, adding to your service hours and extracurriculars where you can.

Then you come to the new side of a COVID senior year…

College visits, figuring out your top 3-5 colleges, filling out the Common App + FAFSA and other senior-only tasks is like hopping around a game board in a “regular” year.

Today I’m pulling out my magic wand {called a keyboard} to give you an easy checklist for your college search!

Have you visited any colleges?

Some schools have re-opened and scheduling visits.

With the way states are opening + closing it’s better to visit NOW instead of putting it off until another break. Get ideas for the size of school + the campus layout, or feel you get walking around.


  • Does the college offer your major + other areas of study that interest you {18-year-olds are famous, even notorious for changing majors mid-way through}?
  • Are professors available to students {in + out of class}?
  • What are the class sizes for 100-200 level class + area of study?
  • What are the internship + study-abroad opportunities {they’ll resume, so ask about them now}?
  • Financial aid options {work study, academic scholarship levels, subsidized vs unsubsidized loans, based on WHEN you accept…}
  • How affordable is the school after any financial aid?
  • What’s life like outside of campus {city/town life, weather, distance from home}?
  • What athletics or arts does the campus offer?
  • What are the dining options?
  • Career counseling options; Alumni success stories {graduation rates}?
  • While you’re on campus does it feel like it could be a home away from home {is it a good fit for you}?

You’ve got your questions ready – what’s next?

1/ VISIT:: campus’ in the Fall:: Campus’ have scheduled visit days {register online}

2/ RANK:: your short list:: 3-5 schools to apply to

3/ STAY FOCUSED:: Colleges still look at your senior year grades + activities

4/ ACT/SAT:: There is a lot of speculation if colleges will be asking for these this year with all the cancelled testing dates {there’s a positive 2021 ๐Ÿ˜‰ }

5/ MAKE A LIST:: Start a spreadsheet with all the deadlines so you don’t miss one

6/ CONNECT WITH COUNSELOR EARLY:: Might surprise ya, but you’re not the only one asking your counselor to send transcripts or getting letters of rec. Did I mention to START EARLY

7/ COMPLETE YOUR APPLICATIONS:: Get your applications filled out + essay’s written for your short list schools.

8/ FAFSA:: 2021-2022 won’t open before October 1 + some college scholarships are FIRST COME – FIRST GET!

9/ REVIEW COLLEGE FINANCIAL AID:: If you file early the award packages usually arrive by late November – keep on top of your short list schools.

March – July

10/ TIME TO CHOOSE:: Notify your lucky school by May 1 that you’re coming {Again, positive thinking + moving ahead. Don’t procrastinate}

11/ CONFIRMATION:: Have you received your FAFSA confirmation? Your award letter?

12/ GET TALKIN’:: Attend scheduled college events, connect with your roommate(s), go to the summer orientation, A lot of colleges have Facebook parent pages + student pages.

It’s a BIG YEAR, but remember to make it a FUN YEAR! It may look VERY DIFFERENT than you’re hoping, but celebrate all the lasts you can this year + NEVER STOP LOOKING ahead at your next chapter.

TIME SAVER #1:: Common App. Save time by checking out which of your schools use Common App so you only have to fill out one application to send to multiple schools.

After talking to college admission advisors we discovered that the applications don’t say which are from Common App or filled out directly on the college website.

TIME SAVER #2:: Essay writing – Edit your main essay question in a document you save so you can revise it to fit future application essay’s when possible. Your focus still needs to be on your studies, activities, enjoying your LASTS…not obsessing over essay number nine that you need create.

Want More College Help?

Have a peek at these past posts::

Just Starting the College Search

5 Tips to Help with the College Search

College Tips 2.0

CHEERS & SPARKLES to your search!

๐Ÿ’–Andrea | Shining Moments Photography

P.S. We started college visits sophomore year to get the easy questions out of the way…

  • Big – medium – small student body feels more comfortable?
  • Do big sports matter – don’t matter?
  • How far from home do I want to be?

It never hurts to get a head start, totally pain-free.

P.P.S. Know someone who’d like these tips? Be the SUPER FRIEND + e-mail this link so you all can HAVE FUN in these last high school years {or months}๐Ÿ˜‰

sycamore-photographer, st-charles-photographers,college-tips, high-school-tips


Modern High School Senior Portraits + Headshot Photographer serving Dekalb County and Kane County


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