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College-Prep: To-Do List for High School Juniors

Maryline Michel Kulewicz and Tracy Sullivan of College 101 Admissions Consultants

Junior year in high school sneaks up on families quickly.  Students are now at the halfway point and in less than 2 years, many students will be heading off on a new adventure - college!  Junior year is a critical time to put a college prep plan in place. Creating a timeline now, versus waiting until senior year, will definitely alleviate some of the college stress, and will set your student up for a successful college admissions experience their senior year.  
Robert D. McCaig, Monmouth University Vice President for Enrollment Management, sums it up perfectly when he said, “The most important thing students should do when applying to college is pace themselves and prioritize. Starting early certainly helps students with the pacing, and knowing when to put time into SAT prep versus studying for an exam versus visiting another college, for instance, is an important part of prioritizing.”   
@Students: Here are some helpful tips to get you moving in the right direction this fall:
1.    The #1 question an admission rep will be thinking when they are reviewing your college application: “Did you take the most rigorous courses you could, and did you earn good grades?” GPA and course rigor, without question, are the 2 most important factors.  Make your studies a top priority.  Other factors like leadership activities, strong SAT scores, and athletic prowess are secondary considerations. They will help- but you still need good grades!
2.     If your grades start to slide, don’t wait until you are drowning. Raise the red flag immediately and meet with your teacher or tutor and ask what can be done to help. Asking for help is not a sign of failure - but of strength.
3.     Visit your guidance counselor early junior year. Determine the courses you should take to put you on the right track for college admission. Course selection is important. Colleges like to see growth in a student’s transcript. If you have 2 years of A’s in College Prep Math - think about taking Honor’s Math the following semester or year.  A good question to ask- “How much can I push myself without being shoved.”
4.    Plan early for the PSAT, ACT, and SAT. You’ll need to register 5 weeks before the exam. Many students opt to take the test more than once and a student should plan accordingly.
5.    Start building your activity resume and update it throughout the year. Make a list of your extracurricular activities, accomplishments and work experience with a short description. It’s never too late to begin an activity or join an organization. Colleges are looking to build a well-rounded class with students that show depth and commitment in a few activities that interest them. My advice:  Do what you love and do the work (engage and create impact).  
6.    Begin visiting colleges as early as possible and definitely by the fall of your junior year. I recommend touring local colleges first, even if you think you may want to attend college out-of-state. It will help determine the factors that are important to you in selecting a future college. A few factors to consider: rural, urban, or a suburban setting; small or large student body; public or private school.
7.    Create a college list that includes affordable choices. As a family, determine early your available finances and what/if any loans will be necessary. It is important that your family is all on the same page. Research the availability of merit or need-based aid that will support the student throughout their four college years. Excellent financial aid resource:  And It is never too late to start saving - 529 plans!
8.    As a family, determine early on if you need assistance from an outside source.  Independent Educational Consultants (IEC) have broad experience in navigating the many aspects of the college admissions process. Some consultants offer comprehensive packages beginning sophomore and junior years as well as hourly work for specific pieces of the application process.
Good luck and enjoy the journey!   
College 101 Admissions Consultants LLC.
Email: [email protected]. Phone: (508) 380-3845.
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