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Free Resources to Help *ALL* Seniors Find Their Strong Close to 2020

Picture of Arun Ponnusamy
By Arun Ponnusamy on December, 16 2020 | 4 minute read


For those of you who want the good stuff right away, scroll on down. We won't be mad. Those of you who want a little bit of an appetizer, read on.

What’s the German word for shaking your head while letting out a pained and grimaced laugh? Because that’s the word coming to mind when I think about this past year. Though 2020 has alternated between being a breathless sprint through a minefield and belly-crawling through broken glass, I know I have it better than most as I count my blessings and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Like all my Collegewise colleagues, I’m looking forward to the holiday break. The same is true for many of my counseling friends in high schools, as we set aside our professional lives and deservedly seek to recharge, recalibrate, and return to work in early January.


Still, for many high school seniors, college application and financial aid deadlines continue to loom, arrive, and pass. And inexplicably, the deadline for several dozen universities is Friday, January 1st or over the weekend that follows. Disproportionately, these are selective schools with (a great deal of wealth and) robust financial aid programs. It follows that many of the seniors who would most benefit from admission to such well-resourced schools are precisely the students lacking most greatly in resources over the break.

Recognizing our blog readership is wide and varied, this post is specifically for those students who don’t have a parent or sibling or trusted adult to turn to on New Year’s Day as the clock ticks down on applying to a dream school (or six) and for those students looking to be “productive” over the break for apps with later January and February deadlines. It’s also for the counselors of those students who want to share out additional resources before you head into your break. I’ve compiled a list of favorite resources that won’t in any way replace a great caring adult but have just enough information, guidance, and wisdom to pull a student over the hump (if getting over the hump isn’t the theme of 2020, I don’t know what is).

With one personal and biased exception, I’ve also focused explicitly on pieces that are specific in nature and aren’t one-size-fits-all. These speak to particular populations of students who are often marginalized when it comes to college attainment, such as LGTBQ+ youths, undocumented immigrants, military veterans, and so forth. It also serves to highlight the often unheralded work that so many folks are doing in CBOs and non-profits around the country. For the adults reading this, many of these orgs are deserving of charity dollars, so please consider them in any year-end giving plans.

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So with that, let’s go!

  1. Runway: This is the aforementioned exception. It’s our free comprehensive “senior course” that’s soup to nuts with 50+ explainer videos and guides to nearly every piece and part of the process. We put it together this fall, knowing that many adults are juuust a bit short on bandwidth these days, and it could serve to fill in some gaps. It’s also fully modular, so students can jump around and engage with only the resources they find pertinent and timely. And for the student who simply wants to bear down on their Common App, well, we’ve got a 2020-21 COVID-influenced guide to do exactly that.
  2. The American Indian College Fund’s Native Pathways A College-Going Guidebook: Intended for Native students, I’m highlighting this book first because it sets the gold standard by way of its thoroughness. It not only has loads of actionable advice, but it’s filled with stories that inspire and motivate—and all curated with thoughtful and approachable design.
  3. Service to School’s Undergraduate Application Guidebook for Veterans and Servicemembers: S2S does remarkable work helping those transitioning into civilian undergraduate programs. In addition to their impressively comprehensive guide, their website offers resources on programs geared towards those emerging from the military.
  4. White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative’s ¡Gradúate! Financial Aid Guide to Success:available in English and Spanish, this guide shares not only financial aid information but college application advice.
  5. NCAN’s Essential Websites: the efforts of the National College Attainment Network has made college a reality for so many in so many communities—particularly first-generation students. This page has an excellent rundown of other trusted resources, particularly on financial aid and scholarships.
  6. Black College Living’s HBCUs 101: this includes information on historically Black colleges and universities and applying to them, as well as plenty about life on campus, too. For additional insight on HBCUs and everything from Greek Life to Studying Abroad, check out ACCEPT’s Being Black in College webinar series.
  7. My Undocumented Life’s Resources for Undocumented High School Students: In addition to their information on scholarships for undocumented college-bound students, personal narratives provide students with support.
  8. Campus Pride’s Ultimate Queer College Guide: supplementing the always illuminating Campus Pride Index, which allows a student to see how inclusive a specific school is, there are helpful framing questions for LGBTQ teens who are building out their college lists.
  9. BigFuture on Transferring from a 2-year to 4-year College: this website provides an excellent starting point for students beginning the transfer process—or even considering community college. Because the transfer process varies markedly from school to school, it’s essential students are checking individual schools’ websites for advice as well.
  10. Think College’s Family Resources: Students with intellectual disabilities have a place in college and all the benefits that come with the experience and education. Think College focuses on supporting these students and their parents through every step of their education journey.

P.S. This list is more sampler than buffet to keep this consumable. But if you’re an educator familiar with other outstanding CBO/non-profit resources that warrant inclusion, please email me at arun@collegewise.com. Thank you and happy holidays!

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