Staying Ahead of Your Applications | Part 2
In Part One of this post, we offered three big organizational tips to help juniors get started on their college application process. Now that you’ve gotten yourself organized, here are five key elements that every student should add to her timeline in the spring of the junior year of high school:
- Set up a meeting with your guidance counselor in January or February. You may not know him or her just yet, but your guidance counselor is a key player in getting your applications completed successfully on time. She’ll tell you what your high school’s process and deadlines are for the application materials, help you research and identify appropriate colleges, and may also help you decide who and when to ask for teacher recommendation letters. It’s also important to remember that for most colleges, the guidance counselor is also responsible for writing you a letter of recommendation. Open lines of communication with your guidance counselor will ensure all the pieces of your college applications arrive on time.
- Create your College List. Building a college list requires a great deal of time and self-reflection. You’ll need to research schools and visit campuses, but it is essential to begin by identifying the criteria you’ll use to find the right schools for you. Consider when you’ll visit schools and how, make reservations with the admission office in advance, and supplement those in-person visits with online research whenever a trip to campus isn’t possible.
- Plan your standardized testing schedule. Whether you decide to take the SAT, the ACT, SAT subject tests, APs, or all of the above, you will need to register in advance and study hard for those tests. The majority of students will take their first exam between January and March and then sit again between April and June with the intention of being done with standardized testing before the end of junior year. If that plan doesn’t work out, you can test in the fall. Tests taken in October or November can still make it to colleges in time for most early applications.
- Maintain current grades and activities. In order to finish your junior year with the strongest possible profile, it is critical to keep your calendar updated with all deadlines for big projects and exams in your classes, as well as important extracurricular events. Many of these can conflict with standardized testing dates, college visits, essay writing, and other elements of your application. You don’t want your four years of grades and activities to get the short end of the stick when applications start getting overwhelming—make sure you carve out time to keep your commitments.
- Finally, outline your plan for the summer. Not only is the summer a wonderful time to independently explore an academic interest or investigate a possible future college major, it is also time to start working on your college essay and applications! Colleges look for students to use their summers productively, and this is a final opportunity to show your stuff to colleges of interest before you put the pieces together in your application.
There are many ins and outs to the college application process, but before you can take the subtle steps towards admission success, you need to be sure you hit all the big ones. With these five mileposts on your radar, you have a much better chance of making your junior year work for you.