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10 Things Juniors Should Be Doing After Winter Break

My nights just got busier with the start of 2020. No matter what day of the week it is, I am usually meeting with high school juniors and their parents this time of year. There is something about the second half of the school year that motivates families to get moving on the admissions process. 

If you are a private client of mine, I have a checklist that I go through to make sure all of my students are one step ahead. I shared this checklist and a lot more with my Application Nation families this week. If you want to see what juniors should be doing right now, here it is:

1. Plan out senior year classes.

Many high schools released course registration this past week while other high schools will be passing this along in the next few weeks and months. Senior year classes are especially important as admissions officers want to see that the student is continuing to take challenging classes. Remember my 5-4 plan! Try to take all five core subjects for all four years of high school.

2. Register and take at least one ACT or SAT this winter or spring.

This will give the student plenty of time to retake the test over the summer or the fall of senior year.

3. Consider your major choice.

While admissions officers don't often say this, they are looking for evidence to back up your academic choices. If you want to know how to show evidence in the application, join Application Nation!

4. Consider your current teachers as potential letter-writers for you.

Most students need at least one letter of recommendation (and often two) from core teachers. Private high schools tend to encourage their students to ask teachers for recommendation letters in the spring of junior year. That's a good rule of thumb no matter what type of high school you attend as fall deadlines happen very quickly at the start of the school year. 

5. Invest in your activities.

This is the time to step up your hours, commitment, and/or impact in the activities you have been doing consistently already. 

6. Start a working document on potential essay topics for your main essay.

I don't recommend writing an essay until AFTER junior year ends, but writing ideas down now as they come to you will yield much more interesting topics than being forced to pick one when the pressure is on. 

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7. Create a starter college list and begin college visits if you haven't begun.

Many colleges track demonstrated interest and it's really important to have an official visit with the admissions office for these schools.

8. Focus on doing well in your classes during junior year.

Nothing carries more weight in the admissions process than academic performance.

9. Start thinking about summer plans.

You want to have something substantive that you can list on your application for the summer before senior year. I am not a fan when it comes to pay-to-play academic programs, and admissions officers feel the same way. There are a whole lot of other things students can and should do over the summer.

10. Find out who your college counselor is and introduce yourself.

Most high schools assign college counselors during the second half of junior year. Considering that high school college counselors often work with hundreds of students a year, it is important that they know who you are and what makes you special. Ultimately, they have more power to advocate for you to colleges than any other individual.

Families, especially those with high school juniors, start to get nervous this time of year with the admissions process staring them down. Yet this is when I get so excited because it is the unofficial start of an experience that can empower, embolden, and inspire students about their future. Every student deserves a cheerleader for them in the admissions process. And if they are feeling lost, I'm here to help them get on track starting now.