Weekly College Column

High school juniors – don’t get overlooked!

It seems everyone is laser-focused on where high school seniors are applying, their essays and their activities; but this is also an important time for high school juniors.

Fall of junior year is the right time to be thinking about and doing many of the following things:

  • Start the year strong with solid organization and study skills. Remember NOTHING is more important to colleges than the rigor of your coursework and your performance. NOTHING.
  • Attend meetings at your school and evening sessions where college reps will share information about their schools. Make sure to ask for business cards from the college reps and follow-up with a thank you and a question or two.
  • Use the teacher workdays in the fall to visit college campuses. Don’t leave all your visits to spring break of junior year.
  • Make sure you make the most of your visits. Find a “College Visit Checklist” on the internet, or create your own template and fill it out for each school that you visit because it can be hard to remember what you liked and didn’t like about specific colleges once you’ve visited more than three or four.
  • Dig deep into researching each of the schools on your list. Identify specific majors of interest as well as your specific priorities (weather, sports culture, safety, etc.) and determine what stands out to you at each college.
  • Separate your schools by the likelihood of acceptance: “Lottery, Reach, Target and Safety.”
  • Identify your favorite “Safety” Try to choose a school that is both an academic and financial “safety.” Then compare that one to all your other schools and now you can feel comfortable eliminating any schools that didn’t measure up.
  • Take PSAT or Pre-ACT (PLAN) if offered. Students who have completed Algebra II by the end of 10th grade should begin test prep and take a test this fall.
  • If you haven’t taken both tests, consider taking an SAT/ACT Diagnostic that will provide you with feedback on your gap areas where you need prep as well as areas that you’ve mastered and don’t need to waste time prepping.
  • Stay engaged in your extracurricular activities. Try and find ways to differentiate your involvement and projects that impact on your school and/or your community.
  • Seek leadership opportunities. Don’t worry if they don’t come with a fancy title. Take initiative to find new and creative ways to solve existing problems.
  • Get ready financially. Parents should complete the FAFSA Forecaster and check out the Net Price Calculator that is available on every college’s website. It’s important for parents to share their plans for financial commitment to their child’s education. Have a discussion about what it means to graduate with loans.
  • Think summer! Summer 2024 will be the last summer for your student to do something that has an impact on their college applications. Think about college programs in academic areas of interest. If they are passionate about a topic, have them investigate potential research opportunities with professors who have expertise in these areas. Summers are also a great time to coordinate a part-time to full-time internship. Students will be able to test-drive different majors as well as have the opportunity to be in a “real-world environment.”

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@bierercollegeconsulting.comwww.bierercollegeconsulting.com 

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