Junior year is a wonderful time to start thinking about college admissions. Unfortunately many students wait to until senior year to really focus on college admissions. However, waiting until senior year can bring a lot of additional stress that no one needs. Therefore, here are 13 things college bound juniors can do now to help their case as a college applicant next year.
Focus on your studies
Junior year grades may be the most important in college admissions. They are the colleges’ first impressions of your academic ability. Colleges will need your senior year grades, but when you submit your application, those senior year grades will not be available. Do well in your classes and strive to do even better than you did before. Upward trends in your grades can really work in your favor, especially for students who might not have done as well at the beginning of their high school career.
Choose challenging senior year classes
As you are preparing for senior year, don’t think senior year is the time to take a break. While college admissions decisions may be made without senior year grades, the colleges will see senior year and most college decisions are conditional. Colleges are expecting you to continue your academic path and they don’t want to see anyone slacking off. Continue taking challenging academic classes, even if you are not required to take them. College admissions officers want to see students challenge themselves in their academic choices. Plus, the more challenging classes can be better preparation for future college courses.
Get to know your counselor
Your school counselor is a great resource when it comes to college admissions. They can provide recommendations for colleges you may want to consider and provide admissions strategies that could work for you. Plus, many college applications ask for a counselor recommendation. Connecting with your counselor will allow them to get to know you so that they can provide a personal recommendation in the future rather than a generic letter.
Connect with teachers
Colleges want recommendation letters from teachers as well. Let your future recommendation writers get to know you a little better. Once you have chosen a teacher or two to write your recommendations in the future, let them know before leaving for the summer. While they won’t be able to submit the recommendation letters yet, they could start thinking about it and have it ready once the official request for a recommendation is received.
Prep for the SAT or ACT
Many colleges still require scores from the SAT or ACT. In addition to coming into play in admissions, test scores can also be used when determining financial aid and class placement. Take some time to prepare for the tests before you take them. Some students choose to pay for test prep, but there are also many free test prep resources available online.
Create your resume
Your resume or brag sheet should include your extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and other accomplishments. It is a great way to inventory your activities so you can determine if you need to do more as you head into senior year. You can also provide a copy of your resume to your recommendation writers to help them get to know you a little better.
Get a professional email address
If your current email address has anything questionable in it, create a new email address. You will be giving out your email address to colleges, scholarship providers, and other individuals and organizations related to college admissions and financial aid. Questionable email addresses with references to alcohol, drugs, profanity, etc. is not the best way to present yourself. I recommend creating an email address using your name or a variation of your name if your name is already taken.
Build your college list
Get to know yourself and everything you are looking for in a college. Start adding colleges to the list that meet your criteria so that you can do further research to learn if the colleges are a good fit for you.
Connect with colleges
Attend college nights or college fairs if they are happening in your area. If colleges visit your school, attend their information sessions to learn more about what they have to offer and come prepared with questions you may have about the institutions. Join the college mailing lists. In addition to getting more information about the colleges, it also shows the colleges you are interested, and sometimes, demonstrated interest can play a roll in college admissions decisions. Follow the colleges on social media to get updates, as well as getting to know the personality of the college.
If you have a real interest in a college and you have not visited yet, make plans to visit. The college visit is probably the most important part of the college search because it is the only way you will know for sure if the college feels right for you.
Discuss finances with parents
Full-ride scholarships sound amazing, but they are not very common. Most students will have to pay some of the cost of their education. The FAFSA gives students their Expected Family Contribution (EFC), but because colleges award financial aid differently, the EFC is not always the best indicator of how much you will have to pay to attend a college. Therefore, have a conversation with parents to discuss how much the family can contribute to your education and use that information as you are researching colleges. Fill out the net price calculators at the colleges you are considering and see how much financial aid you may receive if you attend that particular college.
Apply for scholarships
Dedicate some time every week to apply for scholarships. Scholarships are a great way to help pay for the cost of education.
Start planning summer activities
Many students see the summer as a time to relax and have fun and not think about school at all. However, the summer is a great time to focus on things that could help with college admissions. Learn more about summer programs, internship opportunities, or volunteer work. Grades and test scores play a big part in college admission, but your activities could be the thing that sets you apart from the crowd when compared with students with similar academic profiles.
Don’t wait until senior year to start thinking about college admissions. Conquer some of the college admissions tasks now so you can focus on your applications in the summer and fall.
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