Navigating College Applications – What to Do in Your Junior Year

By Mobel 7 Min Read

Navigating College Applications: What to Do in Your Junior Year

Navigating college applications is a challenging part of high school. There are deadlines to meet and different requirements for each school.

Admissions reps look for students who challenged themselves academically. Taking advanced-level classes is one way to do this. Other ways include choosing recommenders wisely and preparing materials for those teachers.

Get Organized

Getting organized early is an essential step to successfully navigating the college application process. Juniors should make sure to have an up-to-date schedule that includes school events and extracurricular activities, as well as college application deadlines. Using an online calendar app like Google Calendar can be helpful. Adding reminders or alerts to your calendar can help ensure that you don’t forget important dates and deadlines.

In addition, students should create folders for each college that they are applying to, separating application materials by school. This can help avoid the common mistake of recycling an essay from one application to another or not filling in all required fields on an application. It’s also a good idea to keep an accurate record of any communications with admissions officers, says Williams. “If you talk with an admissions officer by phone, have a notepad ready to record their name, the date, and a brief summary of what was discussed,” she says.

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Lastly, students should be sure to participate in things that they love outside of school. While grades and test scores are important, colleges want to see that students have found a passion. This may be through athletics, community service, art, or some other activity. Colleges will ask about these activities on the application, and students who participate in these types of activities are more likely to be admitted.

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Take a College Tour

Whether you have a specific school in mind for college or are just starting the process of creating your list, it’s important to spend time on each campus. The official college tour is a great way to get a feel for the school and gather information that you can’t get from simply looking online.

Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, as tours can be long and involve plenty of walking. It’s also a good idea to bring water. The combination of all that walking and talking can lead to dehydration quickly, which could affect your focus throughout the tour.

The college tour guide, who is often a current student, is typically working from a script written by the admissions office. As such, the tour may focus on key buildings and attributes that the college is proud of, but don’t be afraid to ask for more details about locations that interest you. For example, if you’re interested in theater, ask the tour guide to point out where the department is located.

It’s also important to look beyond the campus and find out what local activities students like to do, including restaurants and other sights. After all, you’ll be living there for the next four years, so it’s important to find a community that you’re excited about. It’s a great idea to take notes during the tour and make note of any aspects that made an impression on you.

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Take the SAT or ACT

Many schools require applicants to submit standardized test scores as part of their applications. While most colleges accept either the SAT or ACT, some prefer one test over another, so it is important to determine which college entrance exam will be best for you before you start studying.

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Both tests have similar content, but they differ in timing and, in some instances, the type of questions. For example, the ACT has a science section and an optional essay, while the SAT does not. In addition, the SAT has more multiple-choice math questions, while the ACT has student-produced response questions (which do not offer answer choices). If you are not sure which test is right for you, consider taking both before applying to school to get a full picture of your abilities.

Once you’ve decided which test to take, make a list of the colleges you plan to apply to and research them extensively online. This is a great time to learn as much as possible about the curriculum, student life, financial aid options, and admissions requirements for each college. Create a document to keep track of the information you find and use it when writing college application essays and filling out scholarship applications. It’s also a good idea to include a list of extracurricular activities, as some colleges may ask about your involvement in these.

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Apply Early

It won’t be long before college application season is here. If you are considering applying early, start building your college list as a junior so that you have time to demonstrate interest through campus visits and submit required testing and other admissions materials ahead of deadlines. You will also be able to make arrangements with your recommenders ahead of time.

Applying early can be a great option for students who are certain of their top choice, have all the necessary materials ready to go, and can benefit from a more streamlined admissions process that will save them time later. However, it is important to think through your choices carefully before you do. If you are worried about your grades or test scores, it might be better to wait to apply during a regular round so that your applications can showcase any improvements.

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Also, if you have been doing too much outside of the classroom, it may be time to scale back and focus more on your academics. Senioritis can hit hard at this time of year, and allowing your grades to slip will hurt your chances for college admission and scholarships.

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