OK juniors, you just witnessed the seniors stroll through the college admissions process. For some, perhaps it was more of a hobble, but you can learn from their missteps. Now it's your turn.
Whenever I am asked about what juniors should be doing at this time of the year, I am reminded of the Plan Ahead graphic where there was no room for the "d" in ahead.
If you want to de-stress the college admissions process, it is all about planning ahead. Here are some tips for juniors/rising seniors:
Study hard for finals, AP exams. etc. In many cases these are the last grades colleges will see. They will see the course selections for senior year, but many colleges now offer Early Action and Early Decision programs and their decisions to accept, defer or reject are based on a student's transcript through junior year.
Prepare the first draft of a resume or brag sheet. List all the extracurricular activities, community service, honor/scholarships/awards, summer experiences, internships and employment. Spend the time now to add in the number of hours per week and the number of weeks per year you've been involved in each activity since most applications will request this information.
Talk with guidance counselors, teachers, parents and students about the college search process. Now is the time to actively pursue as much input as possible.
Research colleges of interest. Contact colleges and universities and request DVDs, brochures and other materials.
Visit as many colleges on the list as possible. There is no substitute for a well-planned campus visit. Students will never learn as much from a DVD or even talking to an alumni representative as they will from roaming the campus and talking directly with students.
Begin to work on college essays. Check out the questions on the Common Application (www.commonapp.org). The essay prompts will likely remain the same for 2009-2010. Many other colleges release their applications around July1.
Stand out this summer. Do something distinctive that speaks to who you are as a person. Try and find something you're passionate about that reflects your community service or academic interests.
Connect with your favorite teacher before the end of the year and ask if he/she will be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you. You are just seeking a commitment now and will provide the appropriate paperwork in September.
Create a calendar with realistic deadlines and manage your time well. Set yourself up to succeed. The summer seems like such a big block of time, but it disappears.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissions strategies.com; www.college admissionsstrategies.com.
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.