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12 Months, 12 Tips for Juniors To Master Your College Planning + Get Great Choices

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Feb 2, 2016 5:36:55 PM


Are you in eleventh grade? Here’s a little secret no one tells you: the college admissions process doesn’t need to be horrible! There are lots of great colleges, and most of them are clamoring for strong students. So take charge of the process, apply to colleges that are a great fit for YOU, and you’ll have great choices and scholarship options.

The whole thing gets a lot easier when you take charge. Take on just one thing each month, and you’ll get it all done. Promise!

January: Get organized

Read through this whole list, and put everything on your calendar. Use iCal or Gcal, so you have it on your phone.

February: Plan your summer

Haven’t landed on summer programs yet? Do a deep dive into options at local colleges. Check out TeenLIfe for summer travel programs--lots with scholarships!

March: Manage your standardized tests

Prep for either the ACT or SAT; not both (wondering which one? Check out this free test.) If you need SAT Subject Tests for any of your colleges, take them in June.

April: Buckle your seatbelt, attend to details + get plenty of sleep

Brag sheets! AP exams! Homework! Plus sports, debate, concerts + the rest of life. Students say this is the hardest month. Take care of yourself with rest, good food + healthy choices.

May: Pick challenging fall courses

Colleges want to see that you’re still working and learning in senior year. So pick challenging courses that genuinely excite you!

June: Do real work  

Before you head off to your summer program (or maybe it is your summer program), do something real: get a job, work on a local service project, make a difference in your community.

July: Start your essays

Great essays take time, reflection--and some inevitable false starts. Open up EssayBuilder™, explore different prompts and see where your stories take you. 

August: Complete the Common App

As soon as the CA opens on August 1st make an account and fill out all the basic info. Use the Activities section to show yourself doing stuff (not just showing up).

September: Finalize your list

10-12 colleges is plenty (2-3 reaches; 5-6 targets; and 2-3 likelies). Any colleges you want to visit? If you can, try to visit them now. Many colleges offer free travel for low-income students.  

October: Finish your essays

Get all your essays organized--including personal statements, supplemental essays, plus honors programs and scholarships. Write the longest version of each one first.

November: Apply Early

You can apply Early Action (not Early Decision) to more than one college. This is a great way to get done early--and get some of your admissions decisions early too!

December: Finish FAFSA

If you want scholarships, you need to complete this form. It’s long; bring a parent + their tax info.

Topics:college admission