November College Checklists for Juniors and Seniors

November 12, 2012, 5:28pm, Topics: checklist, junior, senior, college planning, test prep, essay, resume, early decision

November College Checklist for Juniors

November College Checklist for Seniors

Juniors: You are next! In less than a year, you will be applying to college. So now — as you approach the midpoint of junior year — it’s time to take college planning to the next level.

Juniors, here is your college admissions checklist for November:

Step Up Your Academic Performance

Junior-year grades are often the most important academic work that colleges consider when reviewing applications. Now is the time to focus on course work, redouble efforts and do your absolute best in your classes.

Prepare early for fall semester or trimester exams. Discuss strategies for improvement with teachers. It is never too late to step up your performance. When evaluating college options next year, you will be grateful that you did the hard work now.

Make a Personalized Testing Plan

Now is the time to determine your own standardized testing plan. Begin by taking sample ACT and SAT tests to determine which test is better for you. Sample tests are available from the ACT and College Board Web sites.

Take at least one official ACT or SAT test before the end of junior year. You should also consider taking SAT Subject Tests. Consult with your teachers to determine which of these subject tests, if any, are appropriate for you.

Remember that everyone has a personalized testing plan. What may be right for your best friend may not be right for you.

Keep Perspective on Test Prep

As with anything, practice improves performance, so some test prep can help to boost scores and confidence. But don’t overdo it!

Remember the importance of the transcript. Excessive test prep time may be better spent on improving performance in courses or on other rewarding activities, like conducting research, earning a black belt, holding a job, learning a language, doing service or writing a novel.

Have a clear sense of what your goals are for test prep and be a savvy consumer of the many test prep services available.

Get Involved and Be a Leader

Continue to do activities that are important to you. Spending time doing things you love will feed your soul — and build your résumé. Consider positioning yourself for leadership roles.

Draft a Résumé

A résumé should list all your activities, honors, work, summer programs and hobbies. Give a copy to your teachers and guidance counselor to help them get to know you. Keep it handy for college interviews. Submit it with internship and job applications. Update your résumé regularly and refer to it next fall when completing college applications.

Begin to Research Colleges

Research is the key to finding the colleges that are the best match for you. Consider majors, facilities, size, selectivity, location, cost, activities, advising, housing and other aspects of interest.

While college Web sites, online resources, guidebooks and brochures are great resources, the best way to learn about colleges is to visit their campuses. Take official tours and attend admission presentations.

Many colleges may host informational programs in your area. Check college Web sites for details about programs for prospective students.

Maintain Positive Relationships

While you are the one in charge of applying to college, you will need help from other important people in your life, including teachers, administrators, advisers and coaches. Now is the time to evaluate and perhaps improve the quality of your relationships.

You will most likely need to ask one or two teachers for a recommendation as part of your application. Do you work productively with your teachers? Are you an attentive and courteous classmate? Are you a good school citizen? It is never too late to improve your relationships.

Know Your Guidance Counselor

Schedule a meeting for sometime this winter with your high school guidance counselor.

Prepare for the meeting by thinking about your goals for college and listing any questions. Ask about how the application process works at your school. Review your transcript and résumé with your counselor and ask if there is anything else he or she needs. Your guidance counselor can be one of your best allies in the process.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Hype

You are a unique individual, so reflect and focus on what is best for you. Try to look beyond information like rankings and opinionated hearsay that can distract more than help.

As many wise admission professionals suggest, “It’s not where you go, it’s what you do when you get there.” You can get a great education anywhere. Planning ahead, staying on track and remaining true to what is right for you will lead to great college options.

Seniors often need to brace themselves for Thanksgiving dinner because Uncle Johnny, Aunt Sally and cousin Timmy will all ask the same question as they pass the mashed potatoes: “So, where are you going to college next year?”

In our experience, this is the last question seniors want to hear. They want a break. They need a break. Many feel vulnerable, as this question has been posed to them hundreds of times over the last three months.

If you will be having Thanksgiving dinner with a high school senior this fall, take a pledge that you will be the person who asks about something else — anything else. That high school senior will turn into a little boy or girl again who just wants to hug you with their eyes. They may be approaching college in six months, but right now, they are still children in high school.

Seniors, here is your college admissions checklist for November:

Assess Your Progress Toward a Strong Finish

Finish your first semester on a strong note in the classroom. Colleges know that you often start your academic career at their institution in the same way you finished at your high school.

You should also continue to show teachers and other adults in your life that you make wise choices in and out of school and demonstrate that you are ready for the independence that you will have as a college student.

Next, place yourself into one of the following two categories:

• Not There Yet: You have procrastinated or need more time to prove yourself to colleges; it is important to recognize that college admission is within your reach.

• In the Waiting Room: You have written and rewritten essays, requested transcripts and teacher recommendations, sent scores and perhaps completed your interviews.

Checklist for Seniors Who Are ‘Not There Yet’

It’s not too late, and you’re not alone. Students move through this process at different speeds, and there is not one definitive deadline for all colleges.

Please note that the only definitive deadlines are for financial aid, and you and your parents must meet these deadlines to qualify for money. If you put yourself in the camp of “not there yet,” please follow these basic instructions to complete the process:

Take Standardized Tests, Before It’s Too Late

The initial deadlines for the Dec. 1 SAT and Dec. 8 ACT have passed, but for an extra fee, you can still register for both tests until Nov. 16. (Please note that some SAT test dates and deadlines have changed for students in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.)

Request Supplemental Materials for Your Application

Request teacher recommendations and transcripts from your counselor as soon as possible. Most schools require three to four weeks advance notice to process these materials.

Complete Your College Applications

Nearly 500 colleges and universities accept the Common Application, which students can use to apply to a number of colleges and universities. You may also use your prospective college’s online application by going directly to the school’s Web site.

If you need help paying for applications or standardized test registration fees, ask your school counselor if your family qualifies for fee waivers.

Checklist for Seniors ‘In the Waiting Room’

You have handled the process part of the college application very well, which in so many ways shows that you are ready for the independence you will have next year. Take a moment to celebrate the work you’ve done. This is a milestone, and you should be proud of yourself.

If you’ve already hit the submit button and applications are out of your hands, this time can be wrought with anxiety as you wait to hear your fate. No matter how much you want to know the answer, you cannot speed up time; you will not know until the college releases their decisions. Some things to consider:

Keep Your Options Open

It’s not too late to make last-minute additions and revisit and reaffirm the choices you’ve made. Now is the time to make sure you have applied to an appropriate list of colleges that will afford you choice.

Prepare Next Steps After Early Decision

If you have applied under an early decision plan, use the next three weeks to work on the applications you will file if you are deferred or denied in the early decision round. Do not submit these applications yet (you do not want to pay the fees at this point) but have them ready to go. Do not lose your winter break because of poor planning.

Mind the Deadlines

Be aware that some colleges use Jan. 1 as a deadline. If Ryan Seacrest is on your television and the ball is dropping in Times Square, it is really too late to be working on these applications.

Follow Up With Teachers and Counselors

Here’s a well-kept secret: teachers and counselors like school vacations, too. Most of them have been working tirelessly all semester to support your application process. Let them know before winter break if you have additional applications you’d like to submit.

Now is also a great time to thank your teachers for their support. A kind word or a note goes a long way.

You’ve come so far. You’ve done so much. You’re so close to the finish line, but this process is a journey, perhaps the largest and most important school project you’ve ever done.

Recognize that regardless of the outcome, this process has value in and of itself. You will learn something about yourself along the way that will help prepare you for college.

Now pass the pumpkin pie.