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Throughout childhood, a fear of the dark is a common thread. After a few years of maturing, that fear normally goes away, but for 2021 seniors, the fear of the dark is back. That is, the fear of being left in the dark.

With all of the chaos involving the pandemic and schooling this year, many counselors have not informed their senior classes about their college applications, leaving the class of 2021 hanging like bats with no info. Because of this, FlipSide is here to be the light in the senior year jack-o’-lantern with six bits of information to help with the college application process.

1. Start filling out your CommonApp.

The CommonApp is the website where you will apply to most colleges. Here, you pick which colleges you want to apply to and fill out the information it asks for. If you cannot find your college in their list, go to the college’s admissions page instead and look for the application. Go ahead and ask for a copy of your transcript, have your ACT/SAT scores, make a list of extracurriculars you did in high school, and be ready to ask your parents or guardians for information about their schooling. This, among other information, is necessary for your application. All applications are already open. See the deadlines on the website of the colleges of your choice to know when to submit.

Heads up: November 1st is the early action deadline for a lot of schools, and some require early application to be considered for some scholarships or honors programs.

2. Ask teachers if they are willing to write a letter of recommendation

On the CommonApp, it will require two or more letters of recommendations from teachers or community members and one from your counselor. It will give you the option to enter their email to send the request, but it is recommended to ask the person you want to include beforehand to make sure they are willing to fill it out. It will ask about waivering your right to read these letters after they are submitted. While it is ultimately your decision, it is recommended to waiver the right and has been said to look better on applications when you cannot read the letters.

Heads up: Most of the people you are asking will request a list of your extracurricular activities, how you did in their class and other accomplishments, sort of like a resume. It may take a while for them to write a letter due to how many they are being asked to do, so ask them as soon as possible.

3. Start applying to scholarships

Scholarships are key when it comes to helping pay for college, and many deadlines have already opened. To help find these, create a free FastWeb (fastweb.com) account. It compiles tons of scholarships all together so they are easier to find.

Heads up: Make sure you go to the actual website of each scholarship it shows because it sometimes doesn’t show all of the requirements needed on FastWeb itself.

4. FASFA workshops

The FASFA is needed for financial aid. On cfwv.com, they have recorded webinars covering financial aid and the FAFSA, as well as some future dates for live ones where you can ask questions. There are sessions where you can ask questions on Oct. 13, 15, 19, 27 and Nov. 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. If you cannot make it to these, you can also call or email the Division of Financial Aid at wvfinancialaid@wvhepc.edu or 304-558-4619 for help.

Heads up: The FAFSA is due by April 15 for a lot of scholarships offered by West Virginia, but I recommend for students applying to the Promise scholarship to submit it by March 1. The sooner the better.

5. Reach out if you have questions.

This whole process is stressful and confusing. Questions are almost inevitable, but finding the answers does not have to be as stressful. Emails can be a ghoul’s best friend during this time. Email counselors for help or for any information you might need for the application and for scholarships. They aren’t vampires; they won’t bite.

Heads Up: When emailing college admissions or your counselors with questions, include a greeting, your name and class, your question and then a thank you as a closing.

6. Social Media has your back

Over the past few summers, TikTok has skyrocketed in popularity. Aside from all the POVs, dances, challenges and art, here are also tips for this exact process. Search for college application tips, essay tips and scholarships for extra information. YouTube is also a very valuable source, especially in your college search with many videos from students who have been in your shoes already and are able to help.

Heads Up: Liking the videos you find useful can boost your TikTok algorithm to show you more tips and informational videos on your for you page, so you can see them while you are already doing your hourly scroll.

Senior year sneaks up like a goblin pretty quickly, and the college application process often feels more trick rather than treat. Using these six tips can help with all of the confusion and the “heads ups” will help you keep your heads, horsemen.