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Juniors: What You Can Be Doing NOW To Get Ready for College Admissions

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Jan 21, 2016 5:38:56 PM

It’s MLK Day, and when I woke up my driveway was covered in ice, so instead of taking the train to NY I stayed home to work. Most public high school students are home too, so I heard from a bunch of them. It’s mid-January, and a lot of great students are still struggling to finish their college applications, their applications for college honors programs and scholarships, and the dreaded FAFSA.

I answer their questions, uncloud their thinking, and do whatever it takes to keep them on track. But they shouldn’t be worrying about all this in January of their senior year! By that point, they should be done (because they got in Early to a college that’s a great fit). If they’re not done they should be getting done by making sure their college counselor submits their fall grades to all their colleges and writing to colleges where they’ve been deferred, connecting the dots between their Early applications and the things they’ve done since.

OK, it’s not so easy afterall. The college admission process is more complicated than most students plan for, and many students start way too late to get all of the work done on time! Please, please don’t let that be you. Here are five things you can do NOW to make your college applications much simpler come next fall:

  • Figure out what you look like to different colleges. Put your grades and test scores into CollegeData and explore your chances of getting into different colleges. Are you aiming for the right colleges? If not, use online resources to explore other colleges that have similar programs, but where you’re a better match.
  • When college admissions officers visit your school, talk to them. Most people in college admissions love to help students (true!), so don’t be afraid to talk to them. Ask them not only about their college, but the college process more generally.
  • Take an online diagnostic test and see if you’re better at the ACT or SAT, and then prep for that one test. The SAT requires more analysis; the ACT is faster-paced. Most students prefer one or the other; there’s no reason to take both. Really bad at standardized tests? Over 800 colleges (check out to find a complete list) don’t require them.
  • Explore what you want to study in college and why: Use summer programs, internships, jobs and friends who have graduated from college to consider different college majors, possible career paths, and how they connect.
  • Reflect on your Defining Moments--moments when you’ve changed, grown or made a difference: It’s a great time to begin the type of writing and thinking that generates powerful college application essays. Don’t worry about how much you write, or how often, but start to pay attention to the details of everyday life, and moments that reflect how your character has evolved and what people can count on you for.

Most important, remember that it’s less important where you go to college and more important what you do when you get there. 

Topics:college admission