If you are a high school junior, you are in the final stretch of the college search process. You have about six to nine months to before applications are submitted. Do you have a plan? If you are even reading this post, most likely you have taken steps in the process. However, some fine-tuning to your strategy, and seeking guidance when needed, can help you in the decision-making process and can help you stand out when it really matters!
1. Do you know your strategy?
Taking on the complex process of testing, selecting coursework, tours, applications and college essays without a plan for how to stand out is not recommended. Years ago, students were filling applications and high school resumes with every sport and club imaginable, with the hopes that the volume of activities would get the attention of admissions counselors. Colleges are filling their freshmen classes differently now. They want to see your passion for an area of study, a group, a sport come through on the application. It is not too late to plan an approach to your application process.
2. Grades are more important than ever.
Maintaining academic rigor during Junior and Senior years can be difficult. When you submit your transcripts with your application, admissions counselors are looking to see if you can maintain upper-level coursework. Make certain there is no "senior slide" when you select classes and there is consistency or upward trend in your coursework and grades.
3. What is your test plan?
The ACT and SAT are both options for tests. Have you considered which test better serves your academic strengths or test taking style? You may also want to consider taking SAT subject area tests. Not all colleges require them, but some recommend them. Also, a high subject area test score could catch the eye of an admissions dean. Make sure to consider test prep classes or study time as part of your testing plan.
4. What are your summer plans?
Whether your summer plans include travel with the family, community service, or a summer job, have a strategy that includes college planning. Too often, students and families blink an eye and it is August. The summer is not a vacation from your college planning. Instead, think of June, July and August as an opportunity to spend more time on your college process. Arrange family vacations around college towns. Include weekly time in your schedule to begin college essays or to organizing your High School Resume. You will be very thankful in September that you took the time to do this!
5. What is the status of your College List?
Have you started making a list? Actually write down colleges that you are interested in, add to the list and cross off colleges if you decide you against pursuing them. Make it a working list. As favorites formulate in your head, check the requirements of each to see if you meet them. You are looking at colleges that fit your academic and social needs, while fitting your family's finances as well. With this process, the list becomes real places you are likely to be accepted!