There is some uniqueness between what I talk about as a high school counselor with seniors compared to all other grades. When we get into talking about these three specific things, we go much deeper during “Senior Meetings” in the fall of the student’s senior year.
As the school year starts, we always host a “Senior Parent Info Night” to teach some big ideas to parents and students. It’s a lot of information for them to hear all at once, but they get to take it away and process it before their more personalized, individual meeting.
I always want to make sure I hit on these three things in senior meetings: organization and goal setting, timelines, and financial aid. When we get to talk about all three of these during our 30-minute window, parents and students feel more prepared to tackle the five phases of college applications.
Let’s get into the three main topics to talk about in your senior meetings!
1- Organization and Goal Setting
All high school students, of course, could use help with organization and goal setting. I start off my senior meetings by asking the student “Where do you see yourself in five years?” This question usually throws them off a little bit, but I love it. If they already have four-year college in mind, five years puts them out of college… forcing them to think a little longer term than they thought we’d be discussing. I like to know where they see themselves and then work backward.
Once I know where they’d like to be, we can look at where we are now and figure out some practical steps to get there. In this paper and digital Senior Year Planning Guide, seniors can keep all of their messes straight from usernames and passwords to important deadlines to planning dates for standardized tests. You can either print these off and have them ready to hand to a student in a folder or share a digital version with them via email or Google Classroom!
If I had a student in a senior meeting who was really lacking in the organization department, I may schedule a follow-up meeting with them to go through this Organization Digital Counseling Activity. This resource gives students some space to practically reflect on the ways they are planning, arranging, and structuring their time. After answering the questions and doing the activities, they will have some steps in place to change small habits to get themselves better organized! You can use this digital check-in in a variety of ways, but here are a few ways I’ve incorporated digital check-ins into my school counseling program.
Students and parents always want to make sure they’re doing the right things at the right time when it comes to post-secondary planning or the college application process. There is a lot to manage, and no one wants to drop the ball and forget about something major along the way.
Use these free College Application Timelines (with any of your high school students… not just seniors!) if they need a concrete checklist for the school year with information about college to-dos.
If a student needs help mapping out what their senior year looks like for the military or straight to work out of high school, ask questions and help connect them to the right people. Sometimes they just need help looking up the right information and picking up the phone to talk to someone! Your attention to their details will inspire confidence in them to take steps towards their own independence.
3- Financial Aid
This is the last major component of a senior meeting. I find that this is what students and parents are really coming in to hear if their student is two-year or four-year college bound. This is often the most overwhelming part of the college application process and feels the most “high stakes.”
As a high school counselor, you do NOT need to be an absolute expert on financial aid. You just need to be able to point them in the right direction to get their questions answered. (You can show them this blog post with “4 Quick Tips for the FAFSA.”) This could mean walking through the FAFSA website with a family, giving them a handout breaking down all of your state’s public school scholarships, grants, and special stipends, or pointing them to a financial aid workshop your school or district is hosting.
If you’re looking to give extra help to students in your school regarding financial aid, reach out to a local college or university’s financial aid office and ask for a financial aid office to come do (or virtually do) a presentation for families.
Here is a free Starter Scholarship Spreadsheet to share with your students and families to keep keep them organized throughout the financial aid process. If students can stay organized with the scholarships they’re applying to, they can stay better motivated and see their hard work pay off!
When it comes time to actually start applying for financial aid and scholarships, students and parents get really nervous (rightfully so)! By being open to hear their questions and point them in the right direction, students will leave your office more confident around the entire college process especially finding money for college!
When you use these three focal points for conversations during your senior meetings, you will go into them more prepared and focused on things that will truly serve, prepare, and equip your senior students and their families.
Need something else to hand your students as they’re navigating the waters of college conversations? Try this free College Conversation Starter Handout! A perfect tool to bring together parents and students around some of the important topics surrounding post-secondary planning and education!