As a freshman in high school, you were excited to be at a new school with new responsibilities, teachers, classes and sports. As a sophomore, you grew, studied hard and enhanced your skills in athletics, community service and classwork. Now you are a junior, and the idea of life at college has crept into your mind, and it is a very attainable dream. It’s time to get to work to make that dream a reality!
As a junior, your classes should become a bit more challenging and work-intensive. This may seem tedious, but will help in the long-run to better prepare you for your college level coursework. More Honors and AP classes means more hours spent studying, but it will pay off with potential college credit, look great on your applications and help your weighted GPA! Also start to get to know these teachers a bit more – your relationships may lead to a great letter of recommendation next year for your college apps.
Junior year is also the right time to get ahead and begin researching colleges. Many students nowadays apply to more than nine schools although focusing on six to nine is a better strategy. You will have more time to visit each college (perhaps even more than once), will be able to commit more time to each application and likely be less stressed out during the process. One to two “safety” schools and an equal number of “reach” schools, are recommended. Applying to schools while balancing all of your other responsibilites in your senior year can get very hectic, so it is important to get ahead of the curve.
Another great way to use your time during 11th grade is to start taking some of the standardized tests that colleges require. Taking the PSAT in October will familiarize you with the concepts and format of the SAT without the pressure of it. The ACT is becoming much more widely taken in place of the SAT, so find out which might better fit your skills by taking a practice test of each. (Note college requirements – the more selective the school, the more likely you’ll need an SAT Subject Test or two; often this requirement will be waived if you submit just the ACT.)
If you have spare time on weekends, take your family and go visit one or more of your “match” schools. The more time you can spend visiting these places, the more you can visualize your life there for four years. (Maybe you’ll love your school so much that you’ll want to stay there for graduate studies or your first job.)
The college application process can be a burden, but it can also be extraordinarily exciting! Grade 11, here you come.
Stephen is the co-founder and COO of AcceptU. He received a BA from Cornell University, an MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and a Ph.D. from Rice University. Prior to founding AcceptU, Stephen was an Assistant Dean of admissions at Cornell for four years and an Associate Dean of graduate admissions at Princeton University for six years. Stephen is an IECA Associate Member.