FAFSA, and some are putting the finishing touches on the last of their college applications, high school juniors, waiting in the wings, are busy, er, ah, um, busy doing, hmmm... What exactly are high school juniors busy doing?While most high school seniors are submitting
to doughnuts (who says that anymore?), while juniors -- and the parents
of same -- may have much on their respective plates, preparing for the
madness of college applications and admissions (and we mean seriously
preparing, folks) isn't likely a side dish or so much as a snack at this
Chances are, the old, "wait til next year" (gee, it is next year), or, at least, until the junior year of high school is over, is in play.
bad, for this is precisely the time when high school juniors (and their
parental units) should not only be thinking of college, but actively
putting plans in place -- as well as setting the wheels in motion -- to
jump start college admissions.
Yes, now -- not August 1, when Common App 4.0 goes live, is the time for high school juniors to take action!
what can juniors do, aside from planning for prom and downloading the
latest App on their iPhones? Well, here's a short (and by no means
1. Keep Up Your Grades. This is first
and foremost on the "To Do" list. For all the talk about grades not
meaning what they used to, guess what? They do and they will. If your
grades are up there, keep it going. If they need improvement, hit the
books. It will be too late midway through your senior year to say, "Gee,
I should have put more effort into Chemistry." And believe us when we
say that raising that GPA becomes more difficult with each passing
semester. Think a tenth of a point doesn't matter? Think Oympics. That
squeaker that beat out the other guy by 1/100th of a point makes all the
difference in the world!
2. Plan A Rigorous Courseload for Senior Year.
Sorry, but senior year of high school is no time to slack off. Basket
Weaving 1.0 is out. College level courses (for which you might actually
score college credit) are in. That's not to say you should be loading up
on five or six APs. In fact, we advise against that. You should,
however, make a strong academic showing, challenging yourself, and
demonstrating to college admissions officers that you've got what it
takes to succeed once inside those ivy-covered gates.
3. Take the ACT and the SAT Once. Then, take the exam on which you scored higher again.
In preparation, while those prep courses may provide a good foundation,
and private tutors can help shore up weak spots and give you focus,
nothing beats practice, practice, practice.
4. Get To Know Your Guidance Counselor.
How many times have you met with your Guidance Counselor this year?
Once? Twice? Not at all? Stop in the Guidance Office. Introduce
yourself. Make an appointment to sit down and chat. The Guidance office
is a gold mine, and yet, it is all too easy to simply pass by the mother
load on your way to lunch. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Stir some interest in Guidance and your efforts are likely to pay off,
5. Start Searching and Applying for College Scholarships.
Sure, it's tough enough to get high school seniors (let alone those
already in college and footing that hefty tuition bill) to apply for
scholarships. Still, there's lots of FREE money out there, if you
know where to look for it and how to go after it. And the best news is
that many scholarship opportunities are available to high school
juniors. Strike while the iron is just getting warmed up (and your
classmates are consumed by that barely visible zit on their chins). Good
places to start? Try scholarship search engines such as Fastweb, MeritAid, College Prowler and Zinch. [They can also help you get started on your college searches.]
6. Take A Look At Colleges.
It may be a bit early to pack up the car and head off on a road trip to
colleges across the nation (though never too soon to check out those
that may top your list), but heck, with the Internet, you can -- and
should -- take a virtual tour of almost every college (University of
Guam, anyone?) without having to get out of your PJs (like you were ever
planning on doing that, anyway :-) or leaving the comfort (and pile of
dirty clothes) of your bedroom. Virtual tours are available -- and FREE
-- any time of day or night, at websites such as YouniversityTV.com, CampusTours.com and eCampusTours.com
(because CampusTours.com was already taken :-). Check 'em out before
you spend the time and money to head out to campus! [And when you do
head out to campus, let them know you're coming. Schedule a tour. Meet
with an admissions rep. Sit in on a class. Stay overnight in a dorm
room. And, by all means, try the food. Remember, Mom won't be cooking
for you while you're away at college!] Want to get a rough
guesstimate of your "chances" of gaining admission to a particular
college or university? Visit CollegeData.com.
7. Look Over The Common App. While the times they are a changin' at Common App
(a new version hits the web August 1), you can still get a pretty good
idea as to form and format, which will help you prepare, organize and
gather data and information needed to complete the required forms. [HINT:
When the new version is unveiled, be sure to read the instructions and
content carefully, as certain critical aspects, including the
all-important essay prompts, will have changed!]
8. Avoid The College Fiscal Cliff. While we discuss financing college education
elsewhere -- and everywhere -- in this blog, it is critical that a plan
to pay for college be put in place as early in the game as possible.
[By "early" we mean right out of the womb!] That said, it's never too
late to start saving -- and keep saving -- for college. For starters,
think 529 Plan!
9. Get Involved and Stay Involved!
Nothing speaks of a student's character like involvement in the
community. Nothing. And saying, "woulda, shoulda, coulda" in your senior
year just doesn't cut it! Yes, you may be active on the playing field,
but there's so much more to the game of life than Lacrosse and Track.
Volunteer. Roll up your sleeves. No such thing as "once and done." Make a
commitment to a single activity that in some way improves your
community. It will be so much more than a resume builder (which is
another topic for another post).
10. Give Some Thought to Your Personal Statement. Sigh.
The "Topic of Your Choice" may elude the new version of Common App (as
will any attempt to exceed the soon to be strictly enforced 500 word
limit. Still, you should be thinking about -- if not putting pen to
paper (paper?) the essay,
creating a brief outline, and developing a theme that -- within the
context of the stated topics and the confines of 500 words -- will tell
college admissions who you are and what you will bring to campus. Keep
it simple. Write about what you know and what you are passionate about.
And don't stress out. It's only an essay!
11. Hone A Unique Talent, Skill or Interest.
You never know when a college may be in desperate need of a bassoon
player, baton twirler or robotics whiz. Then, too, there may be a
scholarship in there for you -- sometimes even a full ride. If you've got it, flaunt it!
12. Speak With An Independent College Planning Counselor.
[Hey. If we don't toot our own horn, who will? :-)] Back in the day,
when words like "competitive" and "selective" were not in the college
admissions vernacular, you could go down that long, if not sometimes
lonely road to college admissions alone. No Sherpa Guide was necessary. Today, having a college counselor
-- your own personal guru who knows the detours, side roads and rock
falls of the application and admissions process, is no longer a luxury.
[And if you are coming out of, say, one of Long Island's competitive
school districts, having a college counselor at hand to help you
successfully navigate the road to college is an absolute must!] The
telephone consultation, like every one of the steps listed above to help
get you started, is FREE!
So, what are
you waiting for, you high school juniors (and parents thereof)? College
is closer than it appears in the rear view mirror. Let's get started!
Plan. Prepare. Prevail!
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer™.
Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer™ knows. . .
* * *
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