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How High School Juniors Get Ready For the College Process

If you have a high school junior, no one needs to remind you that you’re heading into that exciting, yet daunting world of college applications.   It probably seems unbelievable that you’re next in line to become “one of those parents” who’s experiencing first hand what you’ve heard about for years: the craziness of senior year and the college process.

Wasn’t it only yesterday that they were learning the alphabet?

Whether you’ve had your sights on a particular college – your alma matter, perhaps – or you’re totally open minded about your student’s “best fit,” your rising high school senior needs a strategy.

I was speaking with my brother last week about this exact topic.  With so many “priorities” competing for my niece’s attention, here’s what I told him:

  • Study hard for finals. Second semester of junior year is the last set of grades students will have before they apply to college.  Grades do matter.  Your student’s GPA is very important for college admissions.  And unlike the SAT and ACT, there is no easy way to undo a low GPA.
  • Prepare for the SAT and/or ACT. Your student can skip a lot of pressure by securing a solid score now rather than waiting until senior year.  And trust me, you’ll sleep better, too!  Those pesky standardized tests are no fun to take and no fun to prepare for, but those scores are extremely important.  They can make a huge difference in where your student gets in and how much you pay for it.  SAT and ACT, along with GPA, determine who wins most of the institutional merit scholarships (those highly valued renewable ones from colleges).

These tests are often the most dreaded part of the college process.  And it may be tempting to tell our kids they don’t have to retake them.  But that’s a short-term gain.  Most students need to take the SAT and/or ACT several times.  Sure they are no fun.  But they can bring big benefits and give our kids the real-world experience of working hard for a goal and then enjoying the upside.  (That’s part of college readiness, too.)


Explore college majors and career interests. Community service, internships, and informational interviews can provide important insights into the best college major.  While most colleges don’t require students to declare a major right away, having a direction can lead to a better result.  The more hands-on experience they have, the less likely students will want to change majors.

  • Visit colleges. If you’re going on vacation, make it a point to visit any nearby colleges, even if those schools aren’t currently on your student’s college list.  The more campuses they visit, the more they’ll get an idea of their “best fit” school.
  • Start a college list. It’s definitely not too soon to research colleges and create a first draft of a college list.  Be sure to add schools that you’ll be able to most easily afford.  I speak to a lot of groups about the importance of Target, Reach and Safety schools for cost, not only for college admissions.
  • Work on admissions essays. Applications become available at different times.  Stay ahead of deadlines.  Contact me if you’re looking for an essay coach.  I can refer you to a great one.
  • Create a timeline and set out expectations. If you are expecting your student to contribute to college costs, I urge you to have that conversation NOW.  And if cost matters in terms of where your student will be able to go to college, please be clear about that NOW.  You’ll all be better off!

This is an exciting time for your whole family.  The more organized you are, the better the result and the more enjoyable the process!  There are steps students in all grades can take to lead to more options (and more fun) later.

Wouldn’t it be great to be told what to do and when to do it so your student can have the most success and your family can avoid unnecessary stress?

I’ve got you covered! 

Contact me directly if you want to know more about how I can personally help your family.  Email [email protected]




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