If you are a Junior in high school you don’t need us to tell you that with the end of spring break and the opening of your final marking period–the college exploration process is in full swing.  

Here is a short list of ‘to-do’ items that you should take care of before the end of the year.

 1) Teacher Recommendations

Teachers with a reputation for writing great recommendations get booked early.  Think about who you would like to write a letter supporting your application (remember some schools ask for two teacher recommendations) and ASK that teacher before the end of the school year.  As you consider the best person for the job, remember that the best teacher to ask is not always the one who gave you the easy ‘A’.  You should select a teacher that knows your best work and who has challenged you intellectually.  If you are applying to a math or science program, you might be required to have a recommendation from a math or science teacher.  Additionally, if you plan to apply to schools that ask for more than one teacher recommendation, ask teachers from different subject areas so that your recommendations represent assessments of different skill sets.

 2) Standardized Tests

Devise a test taking strategy.  If you have already taken the SAT and are not ‘in love’ with your scores, take the ACT –the same is true if you have already taken the ACT.  You do not have to take an expensive prep class to do your best.  There are some low cost and free options which can help you.  Check out the College Board and ACT websites and www.number2.com  for some free and low cost options.  Becoming more familiar with these tests, will help you perform at your best.  You should plan on taking each of these exams no more than two times each.  If you are considering a test prep company you should be know all the facts.  Take a look at this article for some more information

 3) Academic and Professional Goal Setting

Spend some time exploring the majors and career paths that you might consider for your own future.  There are many avenues you should follow as you research your interests.  We have listed some ideas below:

  • Speak with adults you know who are in a particular field or studied an academic area in which you are interested.
  • Look into summer or senior year internship or shadowing opportunities.
  • Internet research.  Take a look at associations dedicated to the area that you are considering as a college major (here are a few examples but there are many more psychology; business; and French, etc.).  These sites will have pages dedicated to career opportunities and trends in the field.
  • Spend some time at the library or bookstore looking at books that guide you through this exploration process.  One to check out is: The Everything College Major Test book-10 tests to help you choose the major that is right for you  by Burton Jay Nadler

 4) Planning for Senior year

Make sure your senior year classes are demanding and academically serious.  Colleges want to see that you are working hard and continuing with all five academic solids (i.e., Math, Science, English, Social Science, and Foreign Language).  This is true even if taking these courses goes beyond your high school’s graduation requirements.  Think hard before dropping that last year of math or foreign language.

You should also consider keeping a journal of ideas, fleeting images, thoughts, and/or dreams.  This doesn’t have to be anything complete or something to hand in for grading.  Rather, if you write consistently your journal will become a double ‘treasure trove’ when you are completing your applications.  First, you will have some readily available ideas and reminders of your experiences and thoughts.  Second, you will already have begun the important work of exercising your creative memoir writing skills.  It is never easy to write an essay about yourself.  Many students find this part of the application process the most overwhelming.  If you write in a journal every few days you will be more comfortable writing about yourself for your college application essay.

You should also keep a portfolio of all written graded work.  Anything you already have saved from junior year, put in a folder and keep adding to it. This way you have some ‘go-to’ pieces if you decide to apply to a ‘test optional’ school.  Schools that do not evaluate applicants on standardized test scores will often ask for a graded piece of work from your junior or senior year.  Save your work–you will need it.

 5) Electronic Activities Resume

College and private scholarship applications will ask you for an activities resume.  This is a running list of what you are involved in outside of the classroom.  It should include information on any organizations you have participated in during your high school career including leadership roles, awards received, and the years that you participated in these programs. The resume you send to colleges should be no longer than one full page.  However, you should keep an electronic running tally which you can edit and rearrange based on where the activities resume will be sent.  Write down everything now so you won’t forget and then edit as needed.