Do you have a high school senior prepping for college? Here’s what to do to get ahead.

HOUSTON – It’s an exciting year for seniors but it’s also a time to look ahead to the next chapter in their lives: college.

Applying for college can be stressful, especially when you’re trying to enjoy your senior year.

But even before classes begin, it’s not too soon. Deadlines will soon be fast approaching.

“When I’m dancing, I feel like I’m just like a whole new person. I usually, like, confident and all that stuff on stage. I just love it. It’s always just been kind of my place where I felt me,” senior Mali Hogue said.

When she’s not in school, Mali spends most of her spare time at dance practice, performances and competitions. Now a senior at Episcopal High School, Mali is planning for college.

I also want to just go explore, go somewhere new, go somewhere different than Texas of what I’m used to,” she told KPRC 2′s Cathy Hernandez.

But getting into college is a tough process for all seniors.

It’s so stressful because it’s like there’s so much to do,” Mali said. “I’ve been doing a lot of workshops and we work on our essays. I already have one essay written, but still writing some more. And then there’s this app called Common App. So, I’ve been working on that, filling in all my information so then it can go to all my different applications. And then just studying for ACT, SAT, getting ready for everything before school.”

Mali and her mom Taucha have already visited several campuses.

We visited USC, UCLA, Vanderbilt, and then we drove by some schools in San Diego,” Taucha said. “I want her to explore and find somewhere that really fits like what she wants to do and what she wants to pursue in life.”

Karla Barcus is the founder of K-Scholastic, a tutoring services company that started in 2012.

“The process is very stressful. There’s a lot of pressure on both parents and students,” Barcus said. “The first thing you want to do is narrow down your list of schools that you’re interested in. You want to pick anywhere between four and 15 schools that you want to apply to.”

She advised separating the schools into three categories: safety schools, target schools and reach schools.

“You want to have your safety schools, the schools that you’re pretty sure you can get into, your target schools and target schools are schools that are admitting students with similar stats as yourself,” Barcus said. “And then you also want to have reach schools. And for the reach schools, you think there’s a lower chance of getting in, but you never know what could happen. So you definitely want to have a mix of all three.”

Barcus also encouraged seniors to start drafting their personal essays.

“You want to showcase who you are, your personality, and then you definitely, like I mentioned, you want to have somebody proofread the essays once you draft something. And that could be either an English teacher, a guidance counselor, or you could use services like ours,” she said.

There is still time to add to your resume.

“If you’re not involved in clubs, you want to join some clubs. You want to also do some volunteer work that looks great on a resume,” Barcus said.

Barcus said seniors should begin collecting recommendation letters and make a timeline with due dates and deadlines.

“If you have an organized timeline, it’s going to make your life easier,” she said.

Many students are now using the Common app. It’s a place where they can learn about and apply to hundreds of colleges and get information about financial aid and other resources.

As for Mali, she’s jumped right in and has even used this time to grow.

I think that’s great because it gives them accountability, it puts them invested into the school that they’re going to, and it like teaches them how to be independent, which is important at this stage in their life,” Taucha said.

Mali hopes her work now can ease her stress during her senior year.

“I feel like you want to be able to enjoy senior year more rather than stressing about last-minute application essays, all that,” Mali said. “So, it’s good to get started early.”

Barcus said seniors have one more chance to take their SAT and ACT this fall semester. But you may not know that some colleges are test optional.

Also, it’s very important to sit down as a family to figure out your financial situation.

Do you need to apply for financial aid, loans, or scholarships? How are you paying for college?

It’s time to start thinking about it and take your future into your own hands.

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Reporter, family-oriented, sports fanatic, proud Houstonian.