Surviving Twelfth Grade

by Alejandra Quintana

Right now, as a member of the APS Class of 2019, you might be experiencing one of these three moods:

Regardless of how you currently feel, I will try to ease your journey through your last year of high school. I’ll list some helpful steps that will guide you during the college application process, and I’ll also include essential information that I learned during my senior year.

The secret to getting ahead is getting started.

Mark Twain


During the months before you start your senior year, make sure to explore your academic interests and learn about potential colleges and areas of study. Below are some of the steps I recommend taking during this time period:

- Take the SAT in June for the first/second/third time. If available in August, you can take it then if you want. If applicable, take the ACT.

- Think about your interests, passions, skills, and experiences… how do you see yourself in four years? How would you like to get there? Are you undecided, but eager to explore many possibilities?

- After thinking about these questions, do some research and narrow your college options (initially, a great number is ten). Consider location, size, courses and departments, study abroad programs, internships, community, diversity, student life, financial aid, and any other factors you think are important. I recommend using websites like College Board’s Big Future, Niche, or the lists from U.S. News.

- Identify whether your colleges are in the Common Application, Coalition Application, or another type of application, since this information will be valuable eventually.

- The Common Application is usually available by August 1, but you can register as early as late June. Make sure to fill out the required information so that once the application opens in August, you can begin discovering the requirements for the colleges you are interested in.

- Fill out the FAFSA, which, if I remember correctly, should be open by October. But, just as the CA, you can fill out the information earlier.

- Choose whether you would want to include a resumé or a CV for your application and start filling it out. Remember to include academic achievements, extracurricular activities, summer programs, work experience, internships, community service events, etc. Here is an incredible website that helps you build your resumé for free!!!

Also, here’s a free CV template:

- This summer, try to participate in a summer program that demonstrates your continuous interest in a specific area of study, whether it’s healthcare, creative writing, or business.

- Start brainstorming ideas for your college essay… DON’T PANIC! (just as written on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Your essay should reflect glimpses of your identity, personality, dreams, aspirations, relationships, or any other aspect of your life that you, and only you, think defines who you are in a profound, meaningful way. For now, only brainstorming is key.

- List four high school teachers who have contributed greatly to your academic and personal growth, and I recommend choosing those who have taught you more about the areas of study you intend to pursue.

- Apúntaloooo: Seriously, you’ll need it. If you haven’t sent your autobiography, do so ASAP.

-Prepare to challenge yourself academically and, simultaneously, engage actively in the clubs and organizations you are passionate about. Also, don’t forget to enjoy the entire college application process; letting admission officers know who you are, what motivates you to pursue your interests, and how you contribute to your school community is incredibly satisfying!

Intermission: SAT/ACT

Some may dread it, some may act indifferent towards it, but the SAT/ACT is a decisive component of the college admission process. Whether you’ve already taken it, plan to take it, or marked it as done on your to-do list, here’s what I learned:

  • Remain tranquil. If you stress out too much before or during the test, your mind won’t allow you to concentrate on the questions.

  • Remind yourself that you will try your best and that no one can dictate what you are capable of achieving.

  • Also, bear with me, learn and have fun! Try to find some sort of joie de vivre in the passages and problems!

  • Take it as many times as you can. In my case, the third time’s the charm!

  • Khan Academy is great and free!

Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential.

Winston S. Churchill


During the first months of senior year, finish your college list and begin drafting your essay. Decide whether you want to apply:

  • Early Decision. If so, you should have your essay ready by late September or early October, since the deadline is November 1.

  • Regular Decision. Have your essay ready by October or November, since the deadline is January 1 (and you want to enjoy the holidays).

  • Rolling. This basically means the application will be open within a certain timeframe and you can submit it as soon as you want.

I recommend having the essay ready as early as possible, so that you can focus on the requirements for each college and their respective writing supplements.

Apart from the essay and the many writing supplements, visit each university website to make sure you submit all of the required documentation in time.

Depending on your application deadlines, remember to fill out the transcript request form. In a nutshell: if a college is on the CA, you don’t need to mail it; if it’s on the Coalition or any other independent application, you need to mail it; if it’s in Puerto Rico, you need to mail it.

Study arduously, participate in your clubs’ activities, and enjoy time with friends and family!



It’s your last year. Make it count! Go ahead and:

  • Do some research on something that really interested you from a given class.

  • Foster unity and happiness among all the members of your class! Denounce any unjust or malevolent behavior!

  • Make class projects interesting/interactive by using resources such as Kahoot!, Canva,, Crello, Typeform, and Slides Carnival.

  • Sit with someone you usually would not sit with during lunch! 

  • Be appreciative, thankful, and courteous!


By now, if you applied Early Decision, you should have received the letter. Hogwarts? No, not that letter. You might have been:

  • Accepted. Celebrate! You worked hard for it and you deserve to share this accomplishment with your family, friends, and all of the faculty who helped you during the process!

  • Rejected. You have not let yourself down. You have not let anyone down, for that matter. You submitted the required elements for admission, and, for some reason, you are not what a certain college is looking for this specific year… but, under no circumstances, is that because of who you are. Persevere!

  • Deferred/Waitlisted. This means a college sees you as a potential candidate, but has already maxed out the intended space for prospective students. However, there is the possibility that they will accept you, so don’t give up!

Regular Decision Folks:

If you haven’t finished your writing supplements, do so now! Make sure all documentation is complete! 


Ah, the seemingly inevitable Senioritis, how can it ever be cured? Luckily, I’ve got the perfect elixir:

  • Don’t be fooled. Senior year grades demonstrate your capacity to remain resilient, hard-working, and engaged in your classes. Show colleges that you can continue doing well despite any overwhelming thoughts of laziness.

  • Don’t be influenced. Even if your best friend procrastinates and encourages you to do so, ignore that malignant advice! 

  • Don’t be mediocre. Settling for less means you are not driven, motivated, or prepared to embrace a challenge. 

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.

Henry David Thoreau


For Regular Decision students: I advise you to read the Winter section of this guide, since it covers the admission letter part. 

For all of you, Class of 2019: As you receive your acceptances, consider the pros and cons of every college and talk to family and friends. Remember that, ultimately, the decision is yours to make. If you have the chance, visit the colleges, since viewing and touring them in person can provide you a peek into their different environments.

When you have chosen, make sure to inform the other colleges that you will not be attending their institutions. It is important to confirm your attendance to your selected university as well.

The End?

After long hours of study, stressful moments during the college application process, and countless happy days with friends and family, be glad and proud that you finished your senior year successfully! Remember that the skills you’ve learned and applied these past four years will be essential in this new era of your life! Off to Farewell, Graduation, and the long-awaited Prom!


I hope this comprehensive guide helped you somehow, and I wish you all the best of luck! I am certain that the APS Class of 2019 will bring forth many, many amazing accomplishments and unforgettable moments!

If you need advice on anything, do not hesitate to contact me:

Much love,