By Maya Juman
1. Get a head start on researching and visiting colleges
Researching and visiting colleges before your senior year will give you more time focus on your college applications in October and November. Even if you don’t end up applying to these schools, your initial tours will help you get a feel for what you’re looking for in a college. You’ll get a better sense of what you prefer in terms of things like size, campus location, and social scene. Sign up for colleges’ mailing lists and try to visit or get in touch with current students if you have questions. If you don’t have opportunities to visit campuses, attend a local college fair or information session.
2. Start thinking about college recommendation letters
Your sophomore and junior year teachers are generally the best choice to write a college recommendation letter, but it sometimes takes some thinking to select teachers who you feel know you best. Often a personal connection is more important than grades in the teachers’ class, so this is something you should keep in mind as the school year comes to a close. It may even be a good idea to talk with some of your teachers before the end of junior year. If many students are interested in asking these teachers for recommendations, they may be flooded with requests in the fall.
3. Create a resume of high school achievements
Put together a list of test scores, extracurricular activities, honors, awards, and jobs that you’ve held during high school. This academic resume will come in handy frequently during the college process. You can bring copies to interviews, attach it to college applications, and use it to fill out the Common Application quickly. Organizing your profile will help you get a sense of what you’ve done so far and where you may need to patch up some holes in your application. It can also be very helpful when it comes to brainstorming essay topics. Reviewing your activities and accomplishments over three years of high school can remind you of points to highlight and experiences to write about.
4. Do something personally meaningful over the summer
Many students overthink their summer activities before senior year — selective programs and impressive internships aren’t the only options. A meaningful summer activity can be anything from volunteering locally to taking a course for college credit to a job at your neighborhood ice cream parlor. If you think you’ll truly enjoy an experience and gain something valuable from it, this will appear much more genuine on a college application than anything you’ve done solely for the purpose of padding your resume.
5. Create a fall schedule
If you plan to take or retake the SAT, ACT, or SAT subject tests, organize a time frame and register as early as possible. It’s also a good time to consider applying for selective overnight programs that some colleges offer in the fall — they are often centered around diversity or a specific field like STEM. Not only is this a way to get on the radar of college admission offices, spending the night at a school is a great opportunity to explore the institution on a deeper level.
Keep these simple steps in mind as you wrap up your junior year of high school. Senior year doesn’t have to be stressful if you’re prepared.