With four years of interesting courses, new experiences and a home-away-from-home, college is too exciting and important to not start planning it as soon as possible.
The best time is junior year, when you have time to research and line up all the grand opportunities of senior year. Here are 12 tips for juniors ready to take on the steps in preparing for college:
Prepare for the SAT
Start studying now, and avoid SAT intimidation by taking the PSAT in the fall. It strengthens your test-taking skills, allows you to compare scores with those required by your favorite colleges and qualifies you for the National Merit Scholarship.
Consider AP Courses
Advanced placement courses stand out well on applications. Show colleges that you’re ready for a challenge by taking advanced courses your senior year. They go further in depth than regular high school classes, and scoring high on AP exams can earn you college credits.
Maintain a High GPA
Grades are the most heavily weighed part of your high school education. If your grades aren’t up to par, then don’t worry just yet. Colleges will take note of big improvements in your last two years, especially junior year, so make good grades your top priority.
Research and Visit Colleges
Begin your college search now and you’ll have plenty of time to find your perfect fit. Start online with general ideas of what you’re looking for: big or small campus, available majors, best academic programs, etc. Save your weekends for open houses and campus tours. Ask questions when you visit and create a list of your top schools.
Enroll at a Community College
For another way to be ahead of the game, take general education classes at a local college. See what the course load is like, and stand out among others in your college application. Talk to your counselor about which courses are more likely to transfer in college.
Think About Your Major
You don’t have to nail it down to a specific career, but having a general idea of what to study in college is a huge advantage these days. Most colleges ask you this on the application and choosing a major gives you a leg up over the “undecided.”
Having a plan also helps you prepare and hit the ground running once you start college. Each university major requires a certain set of courses, and starting with them right away saves time and money. Plus, you can prepare ahead of time by doing activities related to your major like writing for your school newspaper if you’re interested in journalism or getting involved in student government if you’re considering political science.
Look for Available Scholarships
Not all scholarships are available to seniors. Juniors have options too, so ask your guidance counselor what’s out there. Financing your education early relieves stress, and perfecting a few scholarship essays now prepares you for the overwhelming number of opportunities available next year.
Pursue Foreign Language Classes
Continue to study languages all the way up to your senior year. It may be difficult, but it impacts your application, life skills and even career opportunities.
Some colleges require a few semesters of a foreign language as part of your program. One semester in college can feel like an entire year in high school, so it’ll be easier to ace the class with more background experience.
Join Extracurricular Activities
Colleges like a well-rounded student. Take part in a bit of everything if you can, such as sports, music and community service. If your time is limited, pursue your interests or something related to your college major. If you’re still stuck, volunteer work is a worthy cause and looks great on any application.
Plan a Stimulating Summer
Keep yourself busy next summer and go beyond visiting colleges.
Working a summer job shows work ethic and puts money toward school. Sign up for a sports or music camp. See if local colleges are holding summer programs for high school students. Travel someplace new or volunteer locally. Read, read and read some more!
By the end of summer you will have expanded your knowledge, talents and resume.
Talk to Teachers About Recommendations
Recommendations are an extra boost to your applications. They provide a personal account of your skills and diligence, and they can make all the difference, so ask your teachers if they’d be willing to write you one. Ask early so they have plenty of time to create an exceptional letter.
Write a Basic Resume
It gives you a sense of satisfaction to lay out all your accomplishments on paper. Become truly professional by writing a resume.
Compile a list of your education, jobs, extracurricular activities, awards, honors, notable skills and other achievements. Elaborate on things like education – what classes you took – and jobs –what skills you learned. Ask a teacher or guidance counselor for advice on proper formatting.