26 Weeks to College: Week 22

Back to Your Senior Year in Progress...
December 1, 2020

Hopefully you got your applications done and dusted over the Thanksgiving holiday and even managed to catch up on your sleep, because now it is time to refocus on your schoolwork.


Because, the end of the term is coming and your grades this term matter!

In fact, this year when standardized testing is optional at virtually every college, your grades matter more than ever. So add some focused studying to your to do list this week as you work on wrapping up the tasks related to applying. We’ve given you our best tips for effective studying, so you can make the time you spend really count!



  • Refocus yourself on your schoolwork so you can finish the term with great grades.

  • Check in on all of the applications you’ve submitted and make sure they are complete. Chase down any missing pieces and resolve any problems promptly and politely. See tips on how to resolve problems in Week 20’s post.

  • Hold off on submitting your finished applications if you have early applications pending and your regular applications aren’t due yet. See why in Week 21’s post.

  • Continue working on your financial aid forms. You have probably completed the FAFSA and CSS/PROFILE forms by now. So what’s left are the college-specific financial aid applications and local scholarship applications. Aim to submit these forms within a week of submitting your application to the college.  

  • Respond to any invitations for interviews and interview. See Week 18’s post for tips.


  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary. See Week 19’s post for tips on how to handle being contacted by colleges.

  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.


1. Take practice tests for the material you are studying.

Ideally, you use a practice test that is as similar as possible to the real test. So if you will have a multiple choice test in Mrs. Adams’ US History class, then ideally you would study using a multiple choice test previously given in Mrs. Adams’ US History class. BUT and this is a big BUT, you will still get benefit from practice testing even if the practice test is not in the same format as the real test, provided it addresses the same subject matter.

To find practice tests, first, ask your teacher about releasing old tests for you to use as study tools. If that’s a no go, then search practice tests online – just Google “practice tests” and the name of your textbook. Finally if there is nothing online, then treat the questions at the end of your textbook chapter as a test, using homemade or purchased flashcards to test yourself.

2. After doing a practice test, restudy as needed.

Restudying involves going back to the questions that you got wrong and studying the correct answer. If you can’t understand the correct answer, then ask someone to explain it to you (your teacher, a friend in the class, a tutor). Once you have read and understand the correct answer, you have “restudied” the material.

3. Plan on “distributed” studying rather than “massed” studying (aka cramming).

Distributed studying is a fancy way of saying that you break your studying into shorter sessions over time, rather than cramming.  The science says that you should have a gap of time between study sessions equal to 10-20% of the total study time if you want to retain what you are learning. Assuming you are going to have finals before you leave for the winter holiday, you need to retain what you are studying anywhere for 14 to 21 days, so the easy way to do it would be to add a practice test or restudy session every other day for each class. Divide and conquer! If you have six classes with finals, do three classes on one day and the other three classes on the next day and continue alternating until finals.

Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

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