Juniors, it’s time for you to get serious about college planning! It’s so important to stay on top of everything you need to do to be ready for application season in the fall and this is when it starts. If you haven’t started yet, don’t worry. It’s not too late, but it will be if you wait much longer! There’s a lot to juggle in the coming months: figuring out which tests to take and when, picking classes for next year, deciding on summer activities, visiting colleges, deciding which colleges to apply to, and then actually applying, plus all of your regular school, sports, family, and social commitments. Phew! It’s a lot just to write! If you’ve been thinking about working with a college counselor to help manage it all, now is definitely the time to get started. Regardless of whether you choose to work with a college counselor or not, this is a super important time in the process. Read on for five college planning tasks you should be doing right now.
SAT and ACT Testing Plan
Spring of Junior year is the ideal time for most students to take the SAT/ACT. (Trying to figure out which one to take? Check out these articles: SAT vs. ACT and Planning for the SAT and ACT) I suggest working around Finals/AP Test schedules so you’re not trying to prepare for the SAT or ACT at the same time you’re studying for finals or the AP Tests. But there are plenty of options of test dates for both tests, so you should be able to fit one in, with adequate time to prepare! So get signed up for a test, buy yourself a prep book (I recommend this SAT Study Guide and this ACT Prep Guide), and get to work!
For many students, the college application process is the first time they spend any real time thinking concretely about their futures. Thinking about the future can be both hope-filled and anxiety-inducing. My advice is to first spend some time reflecting on yourself – who you are now, what makes you happy, what makes you feel most like yourself, when you feel the most energized, what kind of activities or interests you lose yourself in, and what things matter most to you. Once you have a handle on who you are now, you can start to think about who you want to be and what you need to do/where you need to be to make that happen.
The “best” college to attend is the one that’s right for you, so now is the time to start thinking about what would make a college the right one for you. There are many great search tools out there to help you research schools, including Naviance (if your school has it), UNIGO, and Big Future. I like all of these because you can search by major and other factors to narrow down choices. You can also always just do a Google search for things like “Colleges with Archaeology majors,” or “California Catholic colleges.” There are over 5,000 colleges in this country, so don’t limit yourself to the 10 you can name off the top of your head!
Make A Long List
Right now, your list of colleges you’re interested in should be as long as possible. Try not to limit yourself with things like “I’m only looking at colleges near the beach” or “I’m only looking at schools with big football teams.” Those things are factors that should be considered when making your final decisions, but for now keep an open mind and add any schools that you might have even the littlest interest in to your list. Your dream school could be hiding somewhere far from the beach and you don’t want to miss it because you were being stubborn!
Make Meaningful Summer Plans
I know it’s still winter, but now is the time to be thinking about your summer plans! While it’s important to have time to relax and have fun over the summer, it’s also important to do something meaningful with your summer. Colleges don’t want to hear that you spent the entire summer playing video games and watching Netflix – though it’s ok if you do those things in addition to some more meaningful plans! Start thinking about job or volunteer opportunities, sports camps, internships, or plan to work on a project on your own. Whatever it is, make sure that it’s something that’s meaningful for you and not something you’re just doing because you think it will look good on a college application.