What Should a High School Junior Be Doing Now to Prepare and Plan for College Applications?

Making the transition from high school senior to college freshman is a daunting task–and one that begins long before “Pomp and Circumstance” plays. For the best chance at acceptance to the colleges of your choice, you’ll want to start preparing for your college journey as a high school junior. Though it might feel early to focus seriously on applications and admissions deadlines, your junior year is the perfect time to get your achievements in order: you’ll start your senior year with focus and you’ll have crucial tools at hand to attack college admissions essays when the time comes. Here’s what you can do now to prepare for those applications.

1) Boost your resume.

If you haven’t been active in anything other than your classes since stepping foot on campus, now is the time to find a focus. Colleges look at students as a whole, so examine where you can add a resume-booster. Could you take on a mentorship role at your after school job? Would you consider tutoring elementary students after school or doing a shift for Meals on Wheels each weekend?

Whatever avenue you choose, you should feel passionate about your decision. Colleges want engaged, active, and involved students who have a proven track record of academics, personal improvement, community service, and extracurricular activities. They can spot activities that were used to pad your resume quickly, so it’s better to invest in one or two areas that you love rather than doing dozens of activities just to make your resume longer.

2) Consider signing up for advanced classes.

Stand out from the other students in your admissions group with AP or IB classes. Not only does enrollment in these advanced level classes show determination and focus on your part, but they often come with college credit if you achieve a certain score on the final exam. Don’t feel as if you need to take all of the advanced classes that your school offers: if you’re stronger in Chemistry than you are American History, focus on the topic that you feel more confident in. You’re more likely to get that essential high score.

If your high school doesn’t offer advanced classes, talk with your guidance counselor about the possibility of dual enrollment at your local community college. Getting started on your college general education credits while still in high school will give you a taste of what a college class is like while showcasing your gumption and quest for knowledge to your dream university.

3) Get out of your comfort zone with new subjects.

If you’ve always wondered what that marine biology class was like, your junior or senior year is the perfect time to try it! Most high schools have a built in number of elective classes to your graduation requirements, so make use of that flexibility. You might find a new favorite subject or passion while showcasing your academic diversity to college admissions counselors.

4) Be cohesive.

Whenever possible, show longevity on your college applications. As a junior, you’ll want to take note of what you’ve been working on over the last few years and see how you can continue those themes into your senior year. If you were in Junior Beta Club at your middle school and you continued Beta Club your freshman and sophomore year, consider jumping back in for your senior year. Likewise, if you’ve played multiple sports on and off since 6th grade, find one or two that you’re most excited about and ensure that you’re enrolled for the remainder of your time at high school.

College admissions staff like to see that students have the ability to follow through and complete tasks, so finding ways to make your resume cohesive is crucial to your future success.

5) Aim to end on a high note.

If you’ve been on the newspaper staff since your first week as a high school freshman, you’re likely in a good position to campaign for editor-in-chief your senior year. Even if you’re a more recent addition to the group, you can start showing interest in a leadership position now to your advisor. Even if you’re assigned an editorial position other than editor-in-chief, that still shows dedication and hard work on your college application.

6) Be more than someone with good grades.

As you begin to walk along the path towards college, know that everyone trying to get in is showcasing the best version of him or herself. This is why it is crucial to do more than just get A’s and B’s.

Although grades are important, you’ll want to find ways to stand out from the crowd. If your school offers a study abroad program, sign up for it: you’ll learn more about another culture while doing something that fewer than 10% of all college students do [source].

College admission officers see thousands of applications each semester, so being the student who created a weekly talent show at the senior center or who studied ancient history while on a spring break study abroad program is going to make your packet pop.

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