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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Trupkovich M.Ed

6 Things Juniors Can Do Now to Prepare for College Applications

You are in the homestretch of junior year and summer break is on your mind. You know college applications are coming but you might not know there are a few things you can do now to help you later. Here are six tips for high school juniors to get you started:

Plan Ahead

The nice weather outside makes spending the afternoon in your room studying sound like the last way you want to enjoy your day. With only a few weeks of school left, it is hard to keep the momentum going but now is the time to finish strong. Grades and course rigor are at the top of the list of factors admissions counselors consider when reviewing a candidate’s application for admission. If grades are lower than where they can be, hand in those missing assignments, study for those tests and get support from your teacher or a tutor.

Make sure you meet the academic requirements needed for admission into the school or major you are considering. Be sure to schedule senior year courses that highlight your interests and expand upon the rigor of courses you have already been taking. If you have not taken the SAT or ACT, now is the time to schedule a test date and start preparing.

Create a Balanced List of Colleges

Consider academic fit, campus fit, and community fit when selecting colleges. Steer away from choosing a college solely for its reputation, rather focus on what makes it a great fit for you.

Part of creating a final list is finding the right mix of reach, target, and safety schools. Limit the number of colleges with low admission probability for your profile and maximize with good-fit colleges where admission probability is more likely. Creating a final list of colleges early that are unique to you and your college goals will allow you to create a college application to-do list and timeline.

Create a To-Do List

Staying organized and starting early are key factors to managing what can feel like a never-ending process of writing essays and completing college applications. Take time to review the admissions requirements for each school on your college list and look for any additional application requirements for your intended major. Add to-do items and important deadlines to an online calendar so you can set notifications, receive text reminders and even add a family member or trusted advisor to help keep you on track.

Star in Your Own Story

Writing essays can be overwhelming and time-consuming, especially if your college list has schools with a lot of supplemental essays. Start now by checking out the 2021-2022 list of Common Application essay prompts and begin brainstorming personal statement ideas. Your personal statement is the space where you get to be the main character of the story. Write about your successes, challenges, or experiences, just be sure to highlight what you’ve learned, how you grew as a person, or how your strengths or interests developed. Draft your personal statement, edit, revise, put it away for a bit, revisit and repeat.

Letters of Recommendation

Before school is out for the year, ask two teachers to write you letters of recommendation. The teachers you ask should know you well enough to write a compelling letter on your behalf. Be sure to complete any forms they have and give them a copy of your college list, an activities resume, and share any learning discoveries you had in their course.

You will also need a letter of recommendation from your school counselor. If you don’t know your school counselor or they don’t know you well, now is a good time to make introductions. Share all of the above but instead of including a class-specific anecdote share highlights of the type of person you are both inside and outside of school.

Summer Opportunities

Now that you are ready to head into summer think about the ways you want to spend it. With the COVID pandemic still upon us, students have to be creative when planning their summer opportunities. Many camps, college programs for high school students, or travel experiences may be canceled or virtual again this summer. Colleges are aware of this challenge and are excited to see how students decide to spend their time. Get creative with what you plan to do during the summer months. Maybe you learn a new language, pick up a new hobby or start a small business. Whatever it is you decide to do, consider documenting your experience so you can share it later.

Applying to college is a big step but by planning and starting early you will lead the process. Remember, be true to yourself and take the starring role. You got this!

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