Six Things High School Juniors can do to Prepare for the College Process

By: Caroline Koppelman

The end of junior year can be one of the most stressful times of the college process. Everything begins to pile up at once and friends start to get competitive. You have to stay focused, organized, and do everything you can to alleviate your stress. To that end, here’s a list of the six things you should be doing at the end of the Second Semester to maximize your time and be efficient:

  1. Take your final tests (ACT, SAT, SAT II). Come September you want to be as close to finished with these as possible. During the summer and early school year you’ll be starting work on the actual applications and essays and you’ll want to have all of the requisite testing out of the way.
  2. Make a preliminary list of schools you’re interested in and start to get to know them. Ask yourself:

    a. What is the difference between small, medium and large schools and what do their campuses feel like?
    b. How will being in an urban versus suburban school affect me? Which is better for me
    c. Would I rather attend a liberal arts school or research university?
    d. Do I want to go to a school near home?
  3. Visit colleges. It doesn’t matter where you visit, just go to any college on your list and get the process started. It’s fairly easy to look at colleges online and convince yourself they may be right for you. Once you step on the campus, however, you’ll get a visceral reaction to whether you can imagine spending four years there. If you have absolutely no idea what school you want to attend, go visit a school near you and see if you like the campus. From there, you can gauge whether you want something bigger, smaller, or similar in size, and you can start to create a list.
  4. GET ORGANIZED. Get all those highlighters and post its out from wherever they are hiding. Soon you’ll need to be making dozens of to-do lists, pros and cons, and other organizing devices. The sooner you do this the better, and it will save you stress down the line.
  5. Put effort into your extracurricular activities. If you’ve been in a club since freshman year, and you do not have a leadership role, now is a good time to start thinking about it. Start by having a conversation with the President (chair, etc.) of the club and tell them you would like to take on more responsibilities. This is the time of the year when presidents or co-chairs are making leadership decisions for next year.
  6. Keep up your grades. It is easy to forget your classes with everything else going on. However, your second semester grades are very important. Work as hard as you can to ensure that you get the best grades in the hardest classes and that you can come as close to a 5 on all your AP exams as possible. 

Everyone from your friends, family, and counselors will tell you that this is an exciting time in your life. And they’re right, it is. But, it is also a time filled with endless uncertainty and stress, so hearing how exciting it is will probably get frustrating. Whenever you need to, take a step back and realize that no one decision you make is going to radically change your life. We’ve seen so many students go through the process, and it always works out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Doing these things can help minimize stress, keep you organized, and prevent the process from becoming overwhelming.