Dear High School Junior,
Congratulations! You’ve worked hard to get here and the end of high school is not too far away.
But it’s a busy year, and if you plan to attend college, it’s an important one. With that in mind, I want to share a few tips to make sure you get off on the right foot.
- Work harder at school this year. Your junior year grades will be what colleges see as you apply next fall. You can still have fun, of course, but doing your best this year really matters.
- Participate in class, even if it doesn’t come naturally. Come this spring, you will be advised to ask two academic teachers to write your college recommendation letters. Those letters will be much more personal and favorable if your teacher has gotten to know you through your contributions to class discussions. Speaking up in class will get easier as you practice, and you will need this skill in college and in the workplace.
- Stay after school for extra help or to attend review sessions before a quiz or test. This will almost always make you better prepared. And, again, it will give your teacher a chance to get to know you and your work ethic.
- Work on your study skills, time management, and overall organization. You will need to be proficient in these areas to be a successful student in high school and college. If these areas are difficult, ask your parent(s) to help you find some support, either at school or by hiring an academic coach. If you feel overwhelmed, depressed or regularly anxious, ask a parent to set you up with a counselor to talk things through.
- Make sure you are involved in some activities outside of class. When it comes time to write your essays and participate in college interviews, you’ll want to be able to point to things you have done in addition to your academics. Volunteering, part-time jobs, clubs, sports, the arts, etc., are all valuable in this way. Plus, they can be fun and help you realize your strengths and interests. You do not need to add more activities if you are already involved in meaningful ways. Even one meaningful activity may be the right amount for you.
- Decide on your test prep plan. Many of you just took the PSAT. You can arrange to also take a practice ACT and compare the results. Pick one and then decide on your test prep plan. (If you receive accommodations for school testing, talk to school counselors to make sure you have them for these tests too.) Many schools continue to be “Test Optional” for the current application season, meaning that you don’t have to send your test scores. There will likely be some schools that decide to require test scores again in the future. In most cases, it is best to take either the SAT or ACT and see if your scores are strong enough to help your application. It is no longer required to add the optional essay.
- Be vigilant about your presence on social media. Schools have access to this and yes, scholarships and even acceptances have been rescinded based on what they have seen on social channels. In short, if you wouldn’t want your grandmother or a future employer to see it, don’t put it out there!
- Plan to visit some college campuses this fall to do some window shopping. Do your best to visit local schools of different sizes and locations (city vs suburban vs rural). It is best to see schools that are realistic for you to attend so that you don’t fall in love with a school that is not an option for you.
- Sign up to be on the mailing list of colleges in which you are interested. That is the first step in showing your interest. Then make sure you open the emails of the schools you care about (yes, colleges track that!).
- Keep an open mind as you put together a list of potential colleges. There are many colleges you may not have heard of that may be a great fit for you. Don’t narrow the field too soon. Do some research – you will be there for four years (at least) – so make sure it’s a good fit!
All my best for a great junior year!