Where should you be now, in April, May, and over the summer?
If you’re a high school junior or parent/guardian of one, do you know where you should be in the college planning process right now?
It’s Spring, so it’s almost time for summer recess. Over the summer, you might be busy with a job, with travel, doing ACT/SAT prep courses, and maybe even having a little fun on the side!
Now is the time to get working on your college process, narrowing down your college list, thinking about which teachers you’ll be asking for recommendations, and more.
In other words, now is the time to get all of your ducks in a row!
The College Planning Tasks Juniors Should Be Focusing On As Summer Approaches
Virtual College Visits
Due to coronavirus, the current junior class has some additional challenges. As of this writing, travel is not advisable, so you’re going to need to be creative in doing your college search research online. We suggest you visit colleges’ websites to research programs, admissions, student life, and housing.
We recommend unigo.com and colleges.niche.com to gain insight from current students at each school. You should also watch virtual tours on YouTube, campusreel, or campustours. Our website has college tour posts with photos and information profiling many colleges and universities we’ve personally visited.
Some colleges and universities now offer virtual tours, and Facetime, Skype, and Zoom “visits.” No, it’s not as good as the real thing, but it’s a good start for now. Chances are, you might have a little extra time right now, so start there.
Writing Your College Essay
Start planning now for your essays. Look at the essay prompts to get a sense of what you might want to write about, your tone, your personal voice.
Signature College Counseling offers guidance with essay writing. We can help you find that true story, guide you through writing it in your own words. Everyone has a story. We help you find that story. Click here for more information. We’re working via Facetime and Zoom with many of our students right now.
It’s an excellent time for juniors to prep for the SATs and ACTs and start taking SAT/ ACT practice tests too. You can do this on your own via Kahn Academy or act.org. Having some prior practice experience really helps many students. Sample tests also help you determine what you need to work harder on, as well.
Letters of Recommendation
Begin to think about which teachers can write the best letters of recommendation for you. It does not have to be your favorite teacher but a teacher who knows you well and can write something positive about you. Possibly it can be the ones who have seen you work hard and even struggle. These letters are about your character and your work ethic; it’s not just about the grade. We cannot stress this enough: DO NOT wait until your senior year to ask for these letters.
Teachers are slammed with work during the autumn semester, and they may not have the time to write a letter for you. So, ask nicely, ask them during your junior year, and give them the entire summer to do this. If by mid-August you have not received your recommendations, it’s ok to send a quick email reminder. When they send their letter, don’t forget to thank them for their help. An email will suffice; a handwritten note is even better!
Ask your school guidance department if your school subscribes to Naviance. If your school has Naviance (or a similar college planning tool), get on that website/tool right away. Use Naviance to compare your grades/credentials with other students from your school who got accepted or declined to your chosen colleges. Your school may also require that you use Naviance to house your letters of recommendation, list your colleges that you are applying to and send your high school transcripts. Make sure you know the rules!
Next Years’ Classes
If you have access to your senior year course options, start to look at that now. Colleges look at your final years’ course rigor, so keep it consistent with what you’ve been doing. Now is not the time to take only “Easy A” classes. Keep in mind that it’s essential to keep your grades up. Like everything in life, a balance is best. Only you know your abilities. Listen to your inner voice!
A note to all current juniors . . .
We can’t help but feel for you, the class of 2021. This upheaval in life comes at a particularly challenging time. Remember, we are all in this together, and it will become your generation’s common historical thread. Is that any consolation? I doubt it, but I hope so.
Junior Year of High School College Planning: Spring/Summer Checklist
• College list in the final stages. You have a great understanding of the schools you will be applying to.
• Additional college visits planned for the spring and into the early summer months, or via the Internet, if needed.
• Draft your resume, update with current activities, format to be ready for use with completing applications.
• Decide which teachers to ask for letters of recommendation. Ask in late April/early May of your junior year, not at the last minute or in senior year.
• Plan to take your SATs/ACTs in June and over the summer, even into early September.
• Put all the effort you can in completing this year’s courses, and maximizing those grades.
• Know your Naviance log in. Log in to peruse all of the valuable tools you will need for your college journey.
• Plan for next year’s classes, ensuring that you continue with the course rigor that you have undertaken throughout high school.
• Work on applications and essays over the summer.