Summer’s ending! School is rolling back around! For the class that graduated back in June, that means starting up college, but for a whole other group of students, it means that Senior Year (thunder crash) (ominous spooky sound effects), and all its attendant trials, tribulations, and triumphs, is just beginning. We here at Peterson’s are here to provide you with some tips and advice to prepare you for getting back to school, and to help guide you as you work to submit your college applications and decide on what your next educational step will be.

(If you’re looking for more tips on going back to school, or for starting up college, check out these tips from the Second City Improvisational Comedy Group in Chicago.)

1. Get planning! Make deadlines!

We know, we know, you want to ease back into school. You’ve got classes to deal with, peers to socialize with, activities to participate in, and more. The last thing you want to do is to start devoting yourself, heart and soul, to work of any kind, especially not work on planning out your college applications.

Here’s the thing: the earlier you get planning and preparing appropriately, the easier the process as a whole is going to go for you! You want to save yourself aggravation now, but that’s going to just store up plenty more stress for you down the road. Why make your senior year any tougher than necessary?

Set yourself deadlines straight away. They don’t even have to be keyed to the actual application deadlines — they’re just deadlines for you to use for yourself. Application essays need to be done by… First applications away by… Campus visits wrapped up by… SAT and ACT taken by…

Trust us. Making a deadline might be stressful now, but when you meet that deadline, the glorious stress relief is well worth it.

2. Don’t neglect your actual schoolwork!

SO. MUCH. TO. DO. It can be really tempting to let some things fall by the wayside, particularly if you don’t feel they’re important. After all, that essay on “Macbeth” can’t possibly be important as the college essay that might determine whether or not you get into your dream school, right?

Prioritization is important, but it’s also pretty important that you don’t just neglect your schoolwork. Not only do colleges and universities still look at your grades and work throughout your senior year, but it’s important for you, too. Letting your study habits slide into chaos now won’t set you up very well for when you actually begin college. (This is all why tip 1, planning, is so important! The better you plan, the more you’ll be able to do everything without driving yourself to madness!)

3. Seek help!

From anywhere you can get it! It’s just plain a good idea to talk out your plans and the problems in your way with your parents, your guidance counselor, your teachers, and anybody else who might be able or willing to provide you with good and useful advice. You don’t have to climb this mountain all on your own, and that help can make all the difference in the struggle.

Worried about your college essay? Ask someone to read it and give you their thoughts! Preparing for a standardized test? Ask someone to run you through a quiz, or help you sign up for a practice test! Trying to balance regular schoolwork with college admissions work? Ask a peer if you can work together on the school stuff to get it done better and faster than either of you could do alone! And you’re going to have to ask for help anyway if you have to ask for teacher recommendations.

4. Explore your options!

Going into your senior year, especially if you’ve had any preparation for your college admissions from the summer, you may feel like you know exactly what school you want to go to, and exactly what you’re doing. Heck, even when you do your planning, you may feel like now it’s set in stone, and you can’t deviate. Well, that’s not true. Keep in mind that you haven’t made any decisions until you have, and that you should keep exploring options all throughout your senior year.

Check out a whole bunch of schools, including some that you never thought you’d be interested in, just to get further perspective. Investigate whether you should take the SAT, the ACT, or both — each option has different benefits and complications. Explore the different ways that you can apply, from rolling admission to early acceptance to early decision. Look into all the different ways you can pay for college.

There are so many options throughout this whole process that you should never feel trapped. If you do, there’s an option somewhere that you’re not seeing — go find it!

5. Don’t forget to live!

This is your senior year! Your last year of high school! Who wants their senior year to be entirely taken up with work and study and college preparation? If you plan right (see tip 1), you should be able to make enough time to actually just live. Hang out with your friends! Relax! Continue doing the fun things that you enjoy!

And ultimately, that’s the point of all these tips. They’re here to help you to get the necessary work done for college admissions, and to help you keep your eyes focused on the important stuff, while also freeing you up enough from stress and tension and endless demands on your time to actually be able to do the things you want.