Juniors might sometimes feel like they are the perpetual ‘middle child’ –-floating in a sea of anonymity, getting lost in the shuffle — with seniors taking all the glory. And then October through December arrives, the admissions process rears its ugly head in full force and BAM — everyone is hyper-focused on the graduating class… again.
JUNIORS, LISTEN UP
THIS IS YOUR YEAR. Your year to shine. To stand out. To make a difference. To be high impact. To crush those standardized tests. To deepen your academic niche. The work rests on your shoulders to ensure you’re maximizing the entire year so be like Atlas and get started if you haven’t already (hopefully you started this legwork as a freshman/sophomore).
This spring is a VERY important semester that matters to college admissions committees, and we want to help you be prepared.
Here are some priorities for you to keep in mind:
Double Down on Classes
Grades matter. Check that –grades in your core academic classes matter most! Grades are the #1 factor in college admissions (with test scores close behind)…. Admissions officers aren’t easily fooled. They know your high school and will weigh which classes you’re taking with the grades they’re reviewing. Be sure the rigor of your course load is at your personal max without letting your grades suffer. Need to add a college level course this spring to up your academic rigor – go for it. Community college courses are fine or online for credit college courses. It’s pretty easy these days.
Stellar grades this semester are crucial to your college applications, so hit the books. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra help in classes that are tougher for you, and go the extra mile in your best subjects.
Create a Testing Plan
If you haven’t already nailed the ACT or SAT do it NOW. Subject Tests can be scheduled for May and June when your classes are coming to an end. If you are taking AP US History, AP Bio and AP French then add the related Subject Tests in May and June. Backup dates for SAT would be August and latest October next fall. Be sure to carve time out for studying and if necessary tutoring for these all-important tests. As mentioned, test scores are second only to grades in college admissions.
Even if a school says Subject Tests are optional; pretend you didn’t hear that. They DO matter. Your competition WILL be submitting their high test scores as another strategic data point for admissions officers to review.
If your school is lacking in APs, research the possibility of self studying for AP exams this May (how about BOTH English exams? Be sure your school orders by February.) Get testing out of the way so you can spend your senior summer and fall compiling/crafting/perfecting your college applications and focusing on senior year coursework, NOT added testing.
Get To Know Your Teachers and College Counselors
We encourage students to ask 2 junior year teachers to write their recommendations spring of junior year. This means you want to be high impact in class, go above and beyond and spend time getting to know your teachers and showing them your love of learning. Prepare for class and participate in discussions, ask probing questions and develop sophisticated arguments. Talk to your teachers outside of class whenever possible, and share your specific academic interests and goals with them. Steer them towards writing about more than your character or how kind you are. Unless of course they’re talking about your SCHOLARLY character –what you contribute to their classroom… which needs to be more than just a sunny disposition.
Start by doing your research so the schools you’re targeting truly are schools you have genuine interest in and are in range academically. Urban vs. rural? Big vs. small? These are the larger questions to answer at the start of the creation of your targeted college list. And then, visit as many of these colleges as possible. Target your visits to get more mileage out of them and then make an informed decision about which schools are the best fit for you! If you don’t like the academic offerings in your area of interest at a specific school then take it off the list, no matter how pretty the campus. Remember –you will be spending the next four years of your life there. Being comfortable and enjoying your surroundings and the education you’re receiving is key. Not to mention, transfer stats are dismal at most schools so avoiding that route is always best.
Take detailed notes so you remember the unique aspects of each school and why it appeals to you. Don’t just take the tour/info session route — venture out! And don’t believe everything you hear. Discover the truths of a school for yourself. Talk to students, stop by your favorite academic department and speak to a professor, observe a class, see a dorm, do an overnight visit. If you do an overnight, be smart and safe!
You’ll thank yourself later as you sit down to describe WHY you are applying and why you consider yourself a good match for the school…Join us this August in our 15th Application Boot Camp and we’ll ensure you transform your due diligence into a stellar application. Here’s a past ABC student’s advice just for you.
Create a High Impact Summer
Many scholarly summer program deadlines are NOW! We hope you’re well into this process but if not there are still plenty of great program options available. With this upcoming summer your final opportunity to demonstrate your academic passion to colleges, you must choose wisely. Consider your past experiences and best classes; there’s typically an overall theme, and tie them together with what matters to you most. This is the simplest definition of your academic niche. Now work to deepen it! Look into for-credit summer programs that complement and enhance your scholarly focus, and will prepare you for college-level work or consider research positions at academic institutions, for example.
Add Online Learning Into the Mix
There are a multitude of online learning opportunities available (for credit or not). We typically encourage for-credit programs/courses simply because it is a great way to highlight your scholarly side and love of learning on your application. That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider not-for-credit courses or programs but be smart with your choices. Check out MIT OpenCourseWare for example; not for college credit but a great way to deepen your niche if the topics match your interests.
MORAL OF THE STORY
Put the hard work in now knowing that next year you’ll be the recipient of the attention, the glory, the jubilation when you are accepted into your top-choice school. Senior year is filled with its own trials but the more hard work you do NOW the better off you’ll be during the arduous admissions process.
Make your mark on this world…starting now.