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10 Things High School Juniors Should Start Doing Now

by Jocelyn Johnson, on Mar 23, 2015 12:11:00 PM

As colleges prepare to send out their acceptance letters to the Class of 2019 this week, the focus now shifts to current high school juniors’ admission process. So juniors, as you watch your senior friends receive their application status updates, here are 10 things you should start doing now to prepare for your own college admission process:

1)  Ask yourself “Why college?”

Before you embark on the college admission journey, ask yourself “Why college?” Not a specific school, but college in general. What does a college education mean to you? What will you gain? What do you want to achieve in college and beyond, and why is a college education the key to getting there? Knowing the answer to this question will empower you throughout your admission process.

2)  Research Colleges

Begin to explore what types of colleges best fit your academic and extracurricular interests, personality, and values. Use online resources to research colleges and universities and take virtual campus tours. Start connecting with colleges on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The sooner you begin your research and identify which type of schools best fit your interests and personality, the better off you’ll be in the fall.

3) Write every day

The college application process requires a lot of writing. Develop your writing skills, unique perspective, and authentic voice—the three elements of successful application essays—by writing every day for at least 5 minutes. Start keeping a journal or use StoryScape™, our online tool for daily writing. StoryScape™ gives you a daily thought starter and helps you build a portfolio of potential college admission essays through daily writing.

Unlock college essay topics with StoryScape™

4) Map your course selection

The strength of your curriculum is the second most important factor in the admission decision after grades in college preparatory classes, according to a study by NACAC. As you make your course selection for next year, take courses that will challenge you. Seeing a B on your transcript in a difficult class could look better to an admission officer than an A+ in an easy one. 

5)  Get engaged

Find something you’re passionate about and get engaged, meaning go beyond participating in an activity simply to list it on your resume or activities list. Dedicate your time and effort to making a difference, learning something, or growing as a person through your participation in the activity. True engagement leads to transformational experiences that, as an added bonus, you can describe in your admissions essays.

6)  Connect with teachers

The most powerful recommendation letters come from teachers who have meaningful relationships with their students, and they are based on stories that highlight moments in which you demonstrate your character, integrity, academic strengths and achievements. Get to know your teachers so that they will be able to authentically advocate on your behalf.

7)  Keep standardized tests in perspective

Spending thousands of hours or dollars for test prep this summer may not the best allocation of your time or money. The role of SAT and ACT are changing. While standardized tests are still a significant factor in the admission decision, your ACT or SAT score is not the “be all, end all” of your college applications. Admissions officers take a holistic view of your application, so make sure they have more than just a number to look at.

8)  Refresh

When you feel overwhelmed by the stress of admissions, that’s a sign that it’s time to Refresh. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Identify everything about the process that is stressing you out. As you exhale, release each stressor one breath at a time. Use this brief meditation exercise to let go of any doubts or distractions, and open your mind to discover greater personal resources to work through the obstacles encountered in everyday life.

9)  Research scholarships

A recent Princeton Review study found that 90% of students felt that financial aid (loans, scholarships, or grants) would be very or extremely necessary to pay for college. Familiarize yourself with scholarship and college access opportunities and deadlines as early as possible. Learning eligibility and application requirements in advance can help you better position yourself for being selected when the time comes to apply.

10)  Consider Alternative Programs

The landscape of higher education is rapidly changing for millennials. If your answer to “Why College?” is unclear, or if you couldn’t come up with an answer at all, consider an alternative post-secondary program. With gap year programs (ex. Uncollege), coding schools, online learning programs (ex. 2U), “boot camps” (ex. General Assembly), or apprenticeship programs, there are still many opportunities to continue learning and build a career even if college is not for you. 

Topics:college admission