Stay focused on academics
Nothing is more important than doing your very best academically through the end of your junior year. The single most important factor that colleges across the country weigh when assessing your application credentials is your grade point average. They all want to see your academic performance at the very least remaining stable, ideally showing an upward trend. Even though you are probably looking longingly to the end of the semester, now is the time to marshal all your energy and sprint to the end!
Your College List should be firming up by now, including a balanced group of the so-called “reach”, “match” and “safety” schools, all of which you would be happy to attend. Basic search tools such as CollegeBoard.org and Naviance allow you to put in characteristics you want in colleges and create and initial list. When you do research, be sure to consult a variety of resources. Visiting the colleges’ own websites is a must. This is the place to get the facts about academic programs, student activities and student services, and application requirements. Familiarize yourself with the specific application requirements, because this is “official” information. Guidebooks and websites like The Fiske Guide to Colleges, The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, and UNIGO.com provide additional perspective.
Consider the results of any ACT or SAT tests you have taken and review them in light of the requirements of the colleges to which you want you to apply. If your scores are not yet where you want them to be, consider tutoring. Depending on your application deadlines you can take additional tests all the way through December of your senior year. Additionally, if you are completing AP courses, now is the optimal time to sign up for SAT Subject Tests in May or June. You will never be as well prepared as you will be after taking your AP exams.
Develop a College Résumé, which will be used to organize all of your out-of-classroom activities for your applications, to leave with Admissions interviewers, and to help your teacher and counselor recommenders to know you better.
Most, but not all colleges will require that you submit one or two teacher recommendations with your application. It is strongly advised that they come from junior year teachers in solid academic subjects. Please consider who could write the strongest academic recommendation and then ask that teacher(s) before the school year is over. This at least alerts them that you’d like them to plan to do this for you (during the summer or in the fall) and will give you a chance to see if they readily agree.
Many families like to visit colleges during summer vacation. Though the experience can be very different in the summer when students are not on campus, particularly for smaller schools, it is still worthwhile actually to see the school, meet admissions officers and some faculty members, and to get a feel for the campus and the surrounding environment. This is a time, also, to make some “virtual” visits either by utilizing many college websites’ “360 degree virtual tours” or by going to the following websites: campustours.com, ecampustours.com, YOUniversity.com.
Use your summer productively. Colleges want to know how you’re using your weeks away from school, whether it be working, traveling, volunteering, doing research or anything that engages you and broadens your perspectives. It’s a very good idea also to work on your college essays and applications so that when you return for that all-important senior year, you have the majority of your application work complete. It’s a big responsibility and you’ll feel greatly relieved in September to have most of the work behind you.
by Linda Turner, M.A., M.A.
The College Choice, Ltd.
Ms. Turner provides comprehensive and personalized guidance for familes throughout the entire college selection and application process.