March 5, 2018
Juniors! College season is upon us! Yes, juniors aren’t picking colleges, and seemingly have endless hours, endless days, and endless months before the not quite graspable college application process falls upon us. But this daunting task comes with challenges- challenges which can be avoided if you start preparing now.
Arguably, the first step to this process is testing. Yes, I’m talking about the SAT and ACT. *Shudders* These tests are legendary beasts. How can they be slain by you, lowly you? Well the first thing to understand is these tests aren’t actually that bad. Yes, they are long and yes, they seem hard, but fear not, you mighty warrior of the intellect, you will persevere. These tests, with studying, careful preparation, and sheer force of will, can be conquered. Also, people need to realize that low scores don’t break an application, and high scores don’t make it. A high score helps and application, but doesn’t offer any guarantee of admission. The PSAT, in my own experience, is a good indicator as to what to study for the SAT. After taking the PSAT, visit Khan Academy and link your college board account. From there, it’s simple — Khan Academy links the necessary lessons based on your PSAT performance. This testing resource can be utilized to study. Further, many SAT and ACT tutors suggest taking sample tests found in test prep books. Take the tests by sections, one at a time. Take as many tests as you would like. Make sure to time yourself on these practice tests. If you’re under-timed, pace yourself. If you’re over-timed, speed up. These books provide answer keys and explanations, as well as projected scores for each section of these practice tests. All of these resources help tremendously to boost your score.
As a junior, you should start agglomerating what clubs you have been in, classes you have taken, honors you have received, sports you have played, and extracurriculars you have partaken in. All of these will go in your college app and collecting the data (such as the dates of participation, hours per week etc.) now makes the application later easier. The main categories colleges look at are work experience, extracurriculars (clubs/sports), work experience, and volunteer or service work. Further, you could look into internships over the summer. This helps to show colleges that you – the applicant – are applied and passionate. Having extracurriculars surrounding a certain subject certainly helps colleges to show your passion for said subject, and colleges enjoy that. The common belief is that colleges like the uber well rounded student, however, this is not always the case. Colleges like to see passion, they like to see self investment towards a subject.
This summer, it is an advisable idea to start on your Common App essays. The main essay prompt is already available. Visit the Common App website to find the prompts. If you are able to complete your essay by the start of senior year, it can tremendously lighten the load next fall. The supplemental essays for the Common App open August 1st, giving you the final third of summer to start writing your essays. Further, be aware of when supplemental prompts come out, and start writing the other essays as soon as you are able to. This helps to prevent procrastination and heightens the quality of the essays.
Where to apply
You should consider several different things when deciding where to apply to schools such as geography, climate, social life, rigor, quality of the school, number of supplemental essays etc. Making a graphic organizer for each college you’re thinking about can help in deciding which colleges to apply to. Further, ranking the schools in the aforementioned qualities, as well as size, prestige and any other pertinent factors can help. Applying can be expensive, and individual colleges can come with what feels like dozens of supplemental essays. If you spend all this money and do all this work to decide that you don’t actually want to go to the school, it will be disappointing. Instead, apply to schools only where you could see yourself attending. This saves time and money. This year and this summer, it is advisable to do research to determine which schools you would like to attend. Virtual tours can help greatly with this as well. If / when you do decide to go tour schools in real life, take notes on the presentation and during the tour. This will help to decide which college to attend at the end of this process.