Spring is when high school sophomores need to get serious about college planning. That’s because you’re nearly halfway through your high school years. From now on, the way you spend your time will have a big impact on the college application process.
Be sure to plan an interesting, fun and productive summer. First, because you deserve it. Second, because colleges will want to know that you’ve been putting your time to good use year-round. You may decide to get a summer job to earn money, do an internship to check-out career options or take a class in a subject you’ve always been curious about.
Whatever you do, make it a learning experience, something that will help you find out more about the wide world out there. In the process, you may well learn something new about yourself. For more tips, read How to Plan Your Summer.
A sneak preview of junior year
After planning your summer, think beyond it, and consider what’s down the road. That way you’ll be able to pace yourself. During junior year, college-bound students should be working steadily on their college lists. You’ll start by researching schools and considering which ones might be a good fit for you. When you’ve come up with the most promising options, you’ll probably want to plan visits. This will require plenty of time and might involve some holiday breaks and weekends. Read Make Your College Visits Count for advice on college visits.
Get ready for the tests
Besides researching colleges during junior year, you’ll need to prepare for upcoming tests. Many juniors take the PSAT in the fall, then start preparing for the SAT or ACT soon thereafter. Whether you’re prepping on your own, taking a class or hiring a tutor, you’ll need to devote sufficient time. Consider that, when you’re planning your activities.
If you hope to apply to any of the more selective colleges, you’ll also want to take at least two SAT Subject Tests. In that case, you’ll need to strategize about which ones to take and when to take them. The timing will depend on when you’ve completed coursework in the subjects being tested. Be sure to check out the SAT Subject Test schedule online and register for the tests well ahead of the dates. When in doubt, consult your teachers or counselor.
Pull out your calendar
If you’ve followed me so far, you may be thinking you’ll have a busy schedule during junior year. And you’d be right. That’s why it’s smart to start figuring dates and deadlines now and putting them on your calendar. It will make your life easier next year and the year after.
Organizing your college admissions calendar will be an ongoing process. It’s not something you can complete in a day. Start now, by marking the dates you are certain of. Add the others over time, as you figure out what’s coming next.
Work backwards, starting with the college application deadlines for Regular Admission in April of senior year and Early Admission in November. Then figure out what you’ll need to accomplish and when, in order to make those deadlines—with wiggle room to spare.
Hint: If you complete your research and refine your college list by May of junior year, you’ll be ready to write your personal essay that summer. That way, in September, you’ll be well-positioned for a smooth senior year.
The secret to success
Over the years that I’ve advised high school students, I’ve noticed that those who are most successful with their college placements are not necessarily the most brilliant ones. Of course, colleges love high-achieving, high-testers and kids who have special talents or have accomplished impressive things. But more often than not, the well-organized students—the ones who research carefully to find the right fit, who develop smart strategies and plan ahead to avoid crushing deadlines—are the ones who end up at their first-choice schools. They are also the kids who get to the end of senior year ready to head off confidently to college. And isn’t that what the college search is all about?
For more information, contact The College Strategist.