What Can High School Juniors Do Now for Their College Searches?

This blog post is provided by the Unigo Expert Network, a group of top education experts from across the U.S. answering questions submitted by students and parents about college admissions and succeeding after high school. To have your questions answered visit www.unigo.com/expertquestions

“As a junior looking to stay on top of my college admissions timeline, what are the most important things for me to be doing before senior year starts?” – Andrew S., Renton, WA

You Have to Know What You Want to Go for It! Enid Arbelo, Editor in Chief, NextStepU 

It’s easy to get excited about summer break and zone out during the last weeks of school, but these are the days that count! So wake up and start planning! Your first step is to research colleges and programs that fit your needs and interests. That’s where a counselor comes into play. Set up a meeting with one and get some guidance picking colleges and majors that seem interesting to you. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, you can start applying. Sure, the application process can get overwhelming, but if you’ve picked some top schools and majors, you’ve already tackled some of the hardest work!

Getting Ready for Your College Search, Think "Marathon," Not "Sprint" Susan Sykes, President, SS Advisor

By planning ahead, you can be ready to hit the ground running in your senior year. Do what you can this year, beginning with SAT and ACT testing. Try to take each twice in your second semester. Learn about the college options: large v. small; urban v. rural or suburban; liberal arts college v. university. Don't "think" you know the differences -- take time to see samples of each. Do this at schools near you -- you'll learn how to "do" a college visit and be ready for serious campus visits in the summer and fall. 

Follow a Clear Game Plan and Meet Your Objectives Efficiently Gail Lewis, Educational Consultant, College Goals

Paradoxically, much depends on junior year accomplishments, yet application time seems remote in 11th grade. Sharpen your 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, and community service. Above all, maintain your zeal for knowledge and joy in learning.

Sign Up to Take Challenging Courses in Your Senior Year Julie Manhan, Founder, College Navigation

Contrary to popular belief, senior year is definitely not the time to slack off and take it easy. That is because colleges tend to look for and choose students who they believe are likely to be academically successful at their schools. The best things you can do to show them that are to maintain strong grades and sign up to take challenging courses next year. By choosing to take more rigorous classes, and succeeding in them, you demonstrate to colleges that you have both the motivation to take on new challenges and the preparation needed to do college level work.

Juniors Should Commit to Working Hard in Their Academics Elinor Adler, Founder, Elinor Adler College Counseling

As the junior year progresses and the college admissions process begins, it is important to remember that a student’s first commitment should continue to be working hard in all their courses. Throughout the college admissions process, the student’s academic performance is the most important element in being successful. Also, talk with your guidance counselor, develop a testing schedule and discuss what things you (the student) have done in and outside of school since starting grade 9. Remember, the guidance counselor is going to be writing your recommendation and knowing you well is the key to being able to highlight your accomplishments.

Get the full story from 35 more experts -- including the Dean of Admissions from University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan, and more -- at www.unigo.com/expertnetwork. To send your question to our experts, visit www.unigo.com/expertquestions.

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