• By, Renée and Mary


January signifies to most a new beginning, starting the New Year off with a clean slate jammed packed with resolutions and personal promises. For those who reside in the northern parts of the country like Renée, January is a time to plan an escape from the cold! For us, however, independent educational consultants, January means a fresh start for our students: the beginning of an exciting season for junior students in high school thinking about attending college.

For those junior students who haven’t started their college journey, some words of advice; start now! Junior year is a viable time to focus on the college process. Take responsibility for your future by committing to utilize your time wisely instead of jamming all your research and application preparation in the few short months of summer. By taking action now, you will get a jumpstart on your senior year when everything seems urgent.

Do you want to know the secret to avoid submitting rushed and inadequate applications?

It is simple actually: start early, stay on course, and stay ahead.

1. Start Early: Begin your college exploration and application tasks early. “When?” you ask. The answer is now! “How?” you ask:

  • Research colleges in depth and take detailed notes of what specifically seems interesting to you about that college. Create a chart on Google docs/excel that you can record the information you gather. After a while, a lot of colleges seem similar so recording useful notes now will help clarify what’s important to you later.

  • Consider taking the self-exploration surveys to determine your talents and interests so that you can explore potential majors and future careers. There are many free ‘self-exploration’ surveys located on college research websites (collegeboard.org/commonapp.org), and other websites sanctioned by your high school (Naviance). Also, there are so many options available on the Internet, but don’t ever pay for these types of surveys or websites; you should be able to find respectable sites that don’t cost you anything except your time.

  • Start outlining ‘your story’. What makes you tick, why you are unique, how are you different from your friends, what are your interests, how do you pursue them, etc.? Develop your story now and continue to establish your story to help create a solid and meaningful application.

  • Standardized Testing-SAT/ACT. Your timeline (see below) should include a plan for standardized testing. Many colleges require the SAT or the ACT. While exploring colleges, refer to its testing profile to establish your plan. Take practice tests to determine which one to focus on and then register! Do not wait until you start your senior year for testing!

2. Stay on Course: Prepare a timeline.

  • Adhere to it, and if you promise yourself that you will work a little bit every day throughout your junior year (researching colleges and doing self-exploration exercises), you will be in tremendous shape to submit your applications in a timely manner. As a result of your preparedness, your applications will be well organized, and an impressive representation of who you are and you will not have any regrets once you receive the admission decisions.

  • Pay attention to your high school guidance department regarding college admissions visits to your school, local college fairs, and low-cost opportunities for testing and test prep (ACT/SAT/Subject Tests).

3. Stay Ahead: Start Preparing Now!

  • If you begin your college application preparation and do as much as possible between the months of January and June, it will most often result in a stress-free application process. Waiting for the summer to ‘do it all’ often results in stressful situations. You will be responsible for writing college essays, completing applications, following up on recommendations, working on last-minute prep for standardized testing, participating in volunteer service, working a summer job/internship, completing potential AP/senior year summer homework and more!

  • Stay ahead of the curve by planning your submission of applications at least one month prior to the deadlines which will show the colleges you are super interested in attending their campus and more importantly, that you are organized and an attentive young adult.

In summary, January resolutions, new beginnings, and promises for you, a junior year high school student, should include an early and thorough commitment to self-exploration and college research. If you start early, stay on course and stay ahead, you will produce strong applications which represent who you are and what you will contribute to colleges that are best-fit matches for you, and where you will flourish and be successful.


Launching Exciting Futures

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