If you have a high school junior in the house with plans to apply to college next year, Wendy Briley, an independent educational consultant and owner of Briley College Consulting (who I featured earlier this week), shares 10 things they should be doing now to get ready to fill out those applications.
Many counselors maintain that your grades your junior year are your most important in the college application process. Make sure to finish strong as the grades you make in the spring of your junior year are the last grades you report on your college application.
CHOOSE CHALLENGING CLASSES FOR SENIOR YEAR
College admission officers want to see students constantly challenging themselves and not taking the easy way out. The rigor of your coursework is one of the key things they will look at to judge how well you fit in at their institution.
GET TO KNOW YOUR COUNSELOR
Get to know your college counselor. Many colleges want to see a counselor recommendation letter and the letter that can speak personally about an applicant is much better than a generic one.
CONNECT WITH TEACHERS TOO
Get to know your teachers and let them get to know you on a personal level. Colleges will need a teacher recommendation letter, and just like counselor letters, it is always best to have a letter that can speak highly about a student.
CONTINUE PREPARING FOR THE SAT OR ACT
Most colleges require test scores and those test scores will play a role in college admissions decisions. In addition, many colleges use your test scores to determine financial aid. So, not only does a better score give you a boost in admissions odds, but it can pay off big time in the form of financial aid that could dramatically reduce your cost of college.
START OR UPDATE YOUR RESUME, ACTIVITY LIST, BRAG SHEET
This will allow you to include all your extracurricular activities, volunteer work and other accomplishments in one place. It is also a way to inventory all your activities and help you determine if you need to do more as you head into senior year. You will also provide a copy of your resume to your recommendation writers when requesting recommendations. Lastly, it will be your “cheat sheet” as you are preparing your college applications.
ATTEND COLLEGE NIGHTS OR COLLEGE FAIRS
If there is a college fair happening in your area, get ahead in the college search process and attend. These are great opportunities to learn about colleges and talk to college representatives. You’ll start to get a feel for which colleges are most interesting to you and what you’re looking for in a college. These also allow colleges to get your information and track students who demonstrate interest in their college.
CONNECT WITH COLLEGES
In addition to attending college fairs, connect with colleges. Learn everything you can about the colleges you are considering. Join their mailing lists to get up-to-date information about the colleges. Joining their mailing list will also show the colleges you are interested, and sometimes, demonstrated interest can play a role in college admissions decisions. In addition, follow colleges on social media. Colleges use their social media accounts to share updates and information on cool things happening on campus.
If you’re very interested in a college and have not visited yet, make plans to visit. The college visit is probably the most important part of the college search because it is the only way you will know for sure if the college feels right for you. College mailings and websites will give you the facts; the college visit will let you experience the community.
START PLANNING YOUR SUMMER ACTIVITIES
For many students, they see summer as a time to relax and not think about college. While it is important to do some relaxing, it is also the perfect time to do things that could help with the college admissions process. Learn more about summer programs, internship opportunities or volunteer work. These are great activities to include on your college application. Grades and test scores play a big part in the college admissions decision, but your activities could be the thing that can set you apart from students with similar academic profiles.