What Is a Rising Senior?

Portrait of high school students in corridor
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Colleges and high schools have such odd terminology. As if the alphabet soup of academic acronyms wasn't enough, there are all the strange terms -- bursar, for example, yield and Jan Term. So when your child's counselor refers to him as a "rising senior," what on earth does that mean?

Once upon a time, a kid was a junior until June of his junior year. When the bell rang on the last day of school, he became a senior - even if the start of the next academic year was still two months away.

Now, he's called a rising senior. (Clearly, it's only a matter of time before preschoolers are called rising kindergartners!)

The term is primarily used at college prep high schools in the United States and when colleges discuss admissions season, as in, "We offer overnight visits to rising seniors." Colleges rarely use the term to discuss their students, and in fact, the freshman/sophomore/junior/senior terminology is increasingly giving way to alternative descriptions based on how long a student has attended, as in " the first year," "second year" and so on.

How Rising Seniors Should Spend Their Time

Your rising senior is in the home stretch of high school, nd over the summer he likely wants to hang out with friends, sleep, swim, play video games, take a road trip or lounge around doing nothing. Once he's gotten that out of his system, it's important to devote two or three hours a week to start in on college applications.

He may pester you that this is his time off, but students who begin the admissions process during summer before their senior year are most successful. Here are four things to put on the to-do list:

Create a college list: Determining where to apply is most important action to take over the summer. Figure out where you're going to get your information to decide which college is the best fit for your child.

Also start looking into the financial aid that you might qualify for.

Contact those colleges: Presenters at a National Association for College Admission Counseling convention stated that colleges admissions officers are turning down some otherwise qualified students for no other reason than the fact that the students had no contact with them before submitting their applications. Your rising senior needs to show “demonstrated interest” -- a term used by colleges to note the frequency and quality of contact students have with admissions offices which indicated the likelihood of a student to enroll if offered admission. Here's how to jumpstart that process:

  • Sign up for the college admissions mailing list on its website.
  • Find out the names and emails of the admissions representatives assigned to your high school and contact them to relay your interest.
  • Visit colleges and arrange interviews.
  • Go to local college fairs to meet and talk to college reps face to face.

Get an early start on applications and essay questions: Filling out your college applications is a critical part of the process and dealing with the dreaded essay can be daunting. Rising seniors should fill out at least one application before school starts.

This will help to demystify the process so prospective students can confidently handle applications during the year.