This is the first in a series of monthly blog posts designed for members of the high school class of 2014, and excerpted from Preparing for College in High School: A To-Do List for Eleventh Graders. It highlights planning steps that you can take now to make your college application process easier and more effective.
Happy New Year! The New Year inspires all sorts of resolutions and fresh starts. If you are a high school junior, it also marks the time for you to begin your college planning.
Here are five resolutions to get you started:
- Consider what you love to do: Following your passions will help the admissions committee understand you better. In most cases, colleges are attracted to students with depth in addition to breadth, so pursuing extracurricular activities is important. More importantly, pursuing your interests – whether it’s archery or Arabic, debate or drama – will make you happy, and continuing to participate in activities you love won’t just improve your college application profile, but will actually lower your levels of application-induced stress.
- Plan for summer now: The summer before your senior year is a critical time in the college planning timeline. Princeton University explicitly asks how you spent it. Lounging by the pool might be lots of fun, but more actively engaging with the world around you during the summer will boost your chances of acceptance to your top choice schools. Far-flung travel experiences might sound tempting, but you need not travel far or spend a semester’s tuition. Look to local universities for academic enrichment or research opportunities, make a bigger commitment to your volunteer work, or try to find a part-time job. As the winter and spring months fly by, time will restrict these possibilities. Plan now!
- Create a testing plan, using your PSAT results as a guideline: If you took the PSAT last fall, you should receive your scores from your high school counselor sometime in January, if you have not already. With these results as a guide, plan your SAT and ACT test dates for the next 12 months. Are you planning to take a review course or work with a tutor? Are you planning to take SAT subject tests? When do those tests tie in best with your curriculum?
- Visit a college: College might seem like it is off in the distant future. Begin to envision it now. Take a day and visit a college not far from your home. What do you like? What doesn’t appeal to you?
- Evaluate your high school’s advising resources and consider whether you will need additional guidance: Many high schools begin college planning in earnest during the second half of junior year. Take some time to understand the resources available to you in your school. If you don’t feel that your school is providing the support you need for your college planning, identify outside resources that can be of help. Independent educational consultants can help you plan your future and expose you to options you might not have considered. You can learn more about working with Accepted.com.
By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.