College Prep Tips: Transitioning from Junior to Senior Year

Before you jump ship and head off for your summer adventures, may I offer a bit of advice? Hold off from being lulled by the warm breezes of vacation plans and spend some time making a list and checking it twice! Below are some tips for finishing junior year strong, using the summer to your advantage, and carrying on with your college plan.

Check your report card and transcript

Begin by checking your final report card to make sure that this year’s grades are correct and your transcript is in order. Junior year is the most important year on your academic record, so be sure you have an accurate statement. In addition, review grades 9 & 10 to make sure all is in good order there as well.

Finalize your senior year schedule 

Next, finalize a rigorous senior year schedule before you leave school for summer vacation. Knowing what awaits come September will help you set clear, practical goals and create a successful working plan. Follow your school’s policy for requesting teacher recommendations (whether at the end of junior year or the beginning of senior year), and ask two core academic teachers for their letters of support. You may also want to give them your resume, GPA, and test scores so that they can draw on pertinent information as they write your letters.

Be active during the summer 

Jump into the summer months with gusto! Colleges want to admit individuals who are committed, engaged, and, in general, exuberant participants in life. Embrace the present as you set out for your paid job, internship, service position, sports camp, or pre-college course.

Reflect on your passions 

Enjoy your activities and note what is particularly rewarding or inspiring to you, because knowing your strengths and passions can help you to make wise, informed decisions down the road. This reflection may also be a useful exercise in preparation for brainstorming ideas for your college essay. Being resourceful and managing your time are key to using the summer months to your advantage.

Write your college essays 

In addition to managing your daily activities, schedule precise times to write your college essay(s) and prepare applications. The essay exercise will take some discipline, because you will need to sit down and complete a number of drafts over several days or weeks. Incorporate writing into your summer schedule and remember that schools often have individual or supplemental essays in addition to the general college essay or personal statement. Plan for thoughtful responses to the supplements.This is a great way to demonstrate your interest and show genuine commitment to your school choices. Colleges and universities are looking for informed applicants, so share your vision and insights!

Review your college list and testing requirements 

Think carefully about your testing strategy and decide if you need additional test scores. Review your college list and be clear about the testing requirements of each school. If you need to test in the summer or fall, register for the tests well in advance, and allow time to complete the necessary test prep.

Review your online presence 

You may find yourself sharing links with college reps (in your application) in the fall, so take an inventory of your social media content, polish your representation, and make your public profiles private.  Be sure to review your online presence in order to present your strongest self. Develop strong content that represents who you are, your interests, and your accomplishments.

Curate your creative work

Summer offers the perfect time to work on art portfolios and demo videos. It takes focus and time to select 10 or 20 images to represent your artistic endeavors, so leave plenty of time for mindful selections.

Plan college visits 

Ideally, summer travel should involve both a family vacation and visits to college campuses, so plan your itinerary wisely. Be attentive to details as you conduct your college prep research and remember that the notes you take on campus may be useful later when you sit down to write your supplemental essays.

Attend college information sessions and tours 

Explore the campus and be sure to register to attend the information session and tour hosted by the admissions department. Colleges and universities may consider demonstrated interest as part of the application process, so it is important to sign up when you show up.

Finalize your college list

As you move through the process of identifying your priorities and differentiating the colleges and universities of interest to you, make sure that you review each school’s degree of selectivity so that you can be realistic about your chances of admission. Review each school’s academic requirements on the admission page of the school website. Review the profile of the current freshman class to see if your stats are competitive and if you have a good chance of gaining admission. As you begin to narrow your college list, make sure you have a distribution of schools that include:

Plan your application strategy

Early Decision 1, Early Decision 2, Restricted Early Action or Single Choice Early Action, Early Action, Regular or Rolling admission deadlines: so many options! Know your policies and deadlines, because a thoughtful approach to timing and level of commitment can create opportunities for positive outcomes.

Review, revise, and update your resume

Remember to add your summer activities to your resume. This document will come in handy when filling out the activities sections of your applications. Look to your resume to determine the most significant activities, rank the significance, and transfer the information to your application.

The intensity of the college application season can be managed through careful planning. Take a realistic look at your summer months and create a working schedule that makes sense for your life. Challenge yourself to find the balance in achieving your college application goals while also spending pleasurable times with friends and family.

Happy Summer!