Our students often begin working with their counselors on the college admissions process in the spring of 11th grade. Although college may seem far away, it’s much closer than students think! If you are a junior, over the next few months you should conduct extensive research and develop concrete ideas about where you want to go to college, visit colleges, and make sure that your course load, test scores, and extracurricular activities will help your application stand out. Our expert counselors have come up with the following tips to help you kick off the college admissions process now and sail smoothly into summer and senior year.
Make a Balanced Preliminary College List
Creating a balanced college list of reach, target, and safety schools is one of the most important aspects of the college application process. Start your search by familiarizing yourself with many different colleges and universities. Next, take a serious look at each school and get a sense of what is important to you. Think our three C’s – Classroom, Campus, and Community – and whether those aspects of life at each school appeal to you. Narrow your options by location, size, academic program offerings, campus life, and any other factors that are meaningful to you. Be sure that each college on your list is a good academic and social fit. To get started, check out some of our favorite college admissions resources.
Get to Know your Guidance Counselor
Make an appointment with your high school college guidance counselor today! Your high school counselor is an excellent, useful resource for college information. Plus, you should try to cultivate a relationship with your high school college counselor as early as possible in your high school experience. The more your school counselor knows about your needs and your goals, the better the guidance he or she can give you in this process. Plus, it’s likely that your counselor will be writing a recommendation letter for your college applications, so it’s important to build a solid relationship with him or her. Further, by evaluating your test scores, grades, personal interests, and other admissions factors, your guidance counselor can help come up with a preliminary college list and help you narrow your college search.
Outline and Draft your Personal Statement
With 456 schools currently using the Common Application, including all of the Ivy League schools, it is likely that you will be using the Common Application to apply to many of the schools on your final college list. The Common Application requires a personal statement of 250-500 words, as well as a short essay on one of your extracurricular activities. You can start brainstorming and outlining these essays now, and even complete a first draft.
Plan the Perfect Senior Year
Many students think that only the first semester of 12th grade will be important, but you must avoid “senioritis” at all costs – the rigor of your senior year courses and the grades you receive in those courses count! In addition to maintaining strong grades, it is also important to push yourself by taking challenging courses your final year of high school; hard work and dedication will pay off in the long run. 11th grade students often select their 12th grade courses in the spring of junior year, so keep this in mind as you build next year’s schedule. However, remember that while you want to be challenged, you also want to make sure your course load is manageable given your schedule and academic ability. Many colleges and universities will provide a list of courses that students should take in high school. You can research the high school academic requirements for the schools on your college list to make sure you are meeting those requirements.
Over the past 10 years, we have found that the students who are most successful are those who start early. It’s important to give yourself ample time to put together an application that you are proud of and reflects who you are as a scholar and as a unique individual. Using the coming months to get a head start will not only help you make the most of your time, it can also lead to a less stressful and more enjoyable senior year.