As a high school junior, what are the most important things for me to do before senior year?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

As a high school junior, what are the most important things for me to do before senior year?

Bob Bardwell
Director of Guidance & Student Suport Services Monson High School

Get Organized...

The college search process can be complicated and overwhelming. If you approach it in an unorganized and haphazard way, then you are likely to encounter problems. It is essential to find a way to organize your thoughts and the information you obtain (whether it be via mail or the internet). You also have to develop a system to keep track of deadlines and expectations (this could be a spreadsheet or a paper form.) Whatever method you choose makes no difference as long as you are doing something to stay on top of this process and it works for you.

David Hamilton
Director of College Advising St. Mary's Ryken High School

18 Month Calendar + Your College Search = Success...

Right now, every high school junior should print out a blank monthly calendar starting with March 2011 and ending with August 2012. What to do with these 18 sheets of paper? Arrange them in chronological order – of course – and tape them to a wall in a high traffic area where everybody in the family has access. Write down important dates (spring break, application deadlines, etc) to serve as a guide on what needs to be done and when. By making the search process visible and breaking it down into smaller components, it becomes more manageable for students and parents alike.

Doris Sarr
Director of Adventures in Math and Science Murray State University

As the old saying goes “Poor preparation will lead to poor performance” ...

Putting together a college budget with your parents during the senior year can help alleviate some of the stress of college preparation. Budgeting early could reveal the possibility of not being able to go to college due to lack of funds. It is important to start putting together a budget of projected college expenses in your junior year based on your top college choices. This will allow you to research affordable colleges and sources of revenue for your education (such as scholarships, financial aid, work-study, or other sources). Your parents should be able to sit down with you and outline how much (if any) they can contribute and offer helpful suggestions on how to make your budget.

Gail Lewis
Educational Consultant College Goals

Follow a clear game plan and meet your objectives efficiently...

Paradoxically, much depends on Junior year accomplishments, yet application time seems remote in 11th Grade. Sharpen focus by targeting your college goals early; then design and carry out an efficient game plan. Top students aim for highest grades in challenging classes, ace standardized tests through solid preparation and establish strong relationships with teachers/coaches. They invest personal time in meaningful extracurricular activities, assuming leadership roles when offered. Consider how you can excel in unique ways to differentiate yourself from other good students - through competitions, independent study, talents, community service. Above all, maintain your zeal for knowledge and joy in learning.

James Goecker
Vice President for Enrollment Management Rose Hulman Institute of Technology

Personal assessment of needs are important...

Take time to really reflect on the type of environment in which you are most productive. Do you see yourself in a large or small college or university setting? How important are extracurricular opportunities to me? What are the top requirements I am looking for in a college or university on which I will not compromise? Understanding your needs and expectations will make the process of selecting a college home easier and more successful.

James Maroney
Director First Choice College Placement

Juniors, don't wait till senior year for the college onslaught...

First, prepare for standardized tests (SAT, ACT, and SAT II if required by target colleges). Ideally you would have all standardized tests completed by the end of junior year, so you can devote the summer to drafting your essays and completing applications. Second, continue to compile a transcript with rigorous courses and participate in meaningful activities. Third, visit target colleges to create “demonstrated interest” and learn about schools. Finally, approach teachers who know you best to request letters of recommendation. If they seem excited, get contact information so you can send the recommendation forms when they become available in July.

Jane Hoffman
Founder, College Advice 101 College Advice 101

Colleges Need to Know of Your Interest in Them...

Don’t be a stealth applicant, meaning someone who researches online without making yourself known to colleges. Liberal arts colleges in particular need to know that applicants are interested in learning about them. If the first time they hear about you is with your application they may conclude that you weren’t very thoughtful about the process or them. You should go to the colleges’ web sites (admissions or visitor pages), find the prompt and sign in. That will put you on their radar. It will demonstrate preliminary interest in learning more and will ensure that you are not a stealth applicant.

Kekoa Morton
Student Services Manager University of Redlands School of Business

Learn the process so you can plan for Success...

By your junior year you should have a list of colleges that you are interested in attending. Contact an admissions counselor at each of these colleges to learn about the admissions process and requirements. This information will be useful in determining if you meet the admissions requirements and also in planning your campus visits during your senior year. Also get the contact information of the admissions counselor you speak to and ask if you can contact him/her in the future. Lastly, find out if a college accepts the Common Application. The Common Application can save you valuable time and energy.

Kimberly Arias
Director of Programs Project GRAD

Narrow your academic, social and financial focus before you apply...

Ask yourself two important questions: 1) why do you want to go to college and 2) what type of college will best prepare you? Be honest with yourself and you will apply to schools that are the right ones for you. Once you answer the questions, get applications and start to compile the necessary documents. Schedule campus visits and meet with admissions, financial aid officers and current students. Also, request recommendation letters. Lastly, spend your summer wisely. Internships, volunteering and attending academic summer programs are all good ways to stay sharp while impressing college and scholarship committees. Good luck!

Larry Dannenberg
Founder College Solutions

A campus without students is like a rock concert without music...

First, decide what you want from college, academically and socially, then check graduation rates of schools that meet your criteria. You want to graduate in four years because an extra year costs time and money. Then visit your target colleges while classes are in session. Seeing a campus during the summer is like going to a rock concert while they are setting up the chairs. Ask current students what they do on weekends, how many hours they study, how many papers they write and how big classes are. Large classes mean little discussion; small classes mean no place to hide.