Hi, Juniors. Welcome to the college process, and congrats on being “in it” enough to make your way to our blogs. You’re really on the ball. Good for you! Now that you’re here (and presumably in the equivalent spaces on other colleges’ websites), you’re swimming in admissions intel. Deadlines, tips, requirements, advice, oh my! It might feel like a lot to take in, but the good news is that you have time on your side. If you’re reading this in the spring (or fall) of your junior year, just stick to the following priorities and you’ll be all set:
1.) Be a Human: Look out for number one, you know? Smell the roses, hang out with your friends, read a book, bond with your siblings, consider acquiring a significant other. Don’t take this as carte blanche to go rogue and goof around all year, but do take this as an official, college-admissions-approved nod to the importance of sanity and balance. Lots of things are important, but growing into a reasonable adult with some understanding of self-care and more than a little joy along the way is the part of this period of your life that will stick with you the most. Have some fun, friends.
2.) Stay in School: If I say “junior year is the most important year” will you throw up in your own shoes? If so, tough cookies, kiddo. I know you’ve heard this ad nauseum all year, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Your grades from this year will be the most compelling evidence we have of your ability to succeed on our campus. Make them as strong as possible, because doing so will give you more options as you build your college list.
3.) Honor your Commitments: Sports, theater, babysitting, scooping ice cream… whatever you said you would do, do it. You signed up for these things because either A.) you like them or B.) they add value to you personally or to your community or C.) all of the above. You’ll be proud and accomplished if you stick with them and do them well, plus you’ll have evidence to show us what a nice community member you’ll be. If you find yourself in these commitments for the wrong reason (looks good on a resume, trying to impress that potential significant other we talked about, all your friends did it), then wrap up any obligations where others were counting on you and bail. Focus your energies elsewhere.
4.) Fill in Some Bubbles: Sign up for the SAT or ACT. Poke through a practice test or two, then see how it goes. Knowing at least a benchmark score in junior year will help you begin the college search and establish a game plan for any re-testing you plan to do.
5.) Think About Your Feelings: Who are you? Where are you going? What do you want? You’re not going to definitively answer these questions, but a HUGE part of this phase in your life is starting to ask them. Prior to this, most of your choices were made for you, but now you’re on the brink of an important moment you have some control over. The more aware you are of yourself and your proclivities, the better able you’ll be to find a good fit college, and assemble a compelling application.
6.) Visit Colleges: You’ve got to start somewhere, so I recommend your nearest large public institution, and your nearest small liberal arts school. Finding two places that feel opposite of each other within a short drive of home is a great way to gauge your gut reaction to each without too much time or stress. Did a large school feel overwhelming? Did a small school feel stifling? It’s hard to know how you’ll react until you’re there. Once you’ve honed in on some parameters (size, location, etc.) you can begin shaping your list and planning any larger excursions (or starting a deep dive into online research if visits aren’t an option).
7.) Meet your Counselor: Go say hello to your guidance or college counselor (if you haven’t already). He or she is an amazing resource that you should tap into sooner rather than later.
That’s all, folks. Seven things to keep in mind. And, seeing as #7 is a quick errand and #1 and #5 are basically “exist and think,” we’ll call it four(ish). You’ve got this!