In between junior and senior year? Here’s what you need to focus on.
Junior year of high school can be very demanding. Not only are your grades and GPA incredibly important to the college admissions process, but you’re also balancing AP classes, SAT and ACT tests, extracurriculars, a social life, and (for many) part-time jobs. It’s a lot. So naturally, as school is winding down and summer is starting, most rising seniors like to take a bit of a break to catch their breath. That’s totally normal, and we encourage a little bit of downtime at the start of the summer.
That said, November will be here before you know it. Getting started on your college applications now will prevent a stressful and rushed senior fall. Here are some steps to get you started.
1. Get your college list nailed down
You’ll want to put together a list of schools that are evenly distributed based on your likelihood to get in (reach, target, and safeties). You should start off with a large list based on GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and acceptance rates. From there, you can start to whittle it down to 12-15 schools based on more specific criteria. At Cambridge Coaching, we encourage our clients to think through categories like urban/rural/suburban, public/private, tuition, class size, and school “personality” in addition to a number of other factors. Is a sports culture really important to you? Maybe you’re hoping to study something specific, like business or pre-med coursework. Think about where you can actually see yourself, and keep an open mind if you feel resistant to expanding your list.
2. Finish up your SAT/ACT prep (or start it …!)
If you’re starting to think about, or in the middle of thinking about the SAT or ACT, your focus should be to wrap up this process as early into your senior year as possible. Prioritize studying for and taking the SAT or ACT by the end of the summer or the start of the fall. You’ll be heading into more tough coursework, possibly leadership positions at school or in your extracurriculars, and the college admissions process in earnest. Let’s get the SAT or ACT out of the way ASAP.
3. Decide where you want to apply early (if at all)
With hundreds of colleges offering some sort of early acceptance option, it’s an option that you should seriously consider. Colleges are filling a growing percentage of their incoming classes through the early application rounds. If you’re thinking about a number of schools and want to compare where you get acceptances (or financial aid packages) you might want to hang back and apply regular decision. However, if there’s clearly a place that you see yourself, and you want to take advantage of better acceptance rates, applying early can give you a leg up
4. Create a rough application schedule now
Your plan and timeline doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be sketched out to map onto the rest of the summer and into the fall. It’s fine if you don’t know which days of the week you’ll have soccer games or jazz practice, for instance. Think big picture and give yourself some short-term goals and long-term goals. At Cambridge Coaching, we help applicants to plan for a number of deadlines, including:
- Standardized testing requirements and test dates (including dates of score release)
- Official school deadline for application (early or regular)
- Tour/info session dates
- Target date to complete essays
- Target date to complete supplementary materials
- Target date to request recommenders
- Dates for financial aid applications
5. Draft application to ED/EA schools
If you’ve decided on a top contender, it’s important to take the time you have now to start thinking about how you want to present yourself to your school of choice. We recommend that clients consider brainstorming across a number of categories, ranging from personal adversity to leadership in the community. We do a structured brainstorming exercise to help us identify an applicant’s strengths; this exercise is a launch pad for beginning a college essay.
If you’re interested in learning more about college admissions coaching with Cambridge Coaching, please get in touch. We’re excited to learn more about you!