Article found on www.princetonreview.com. and content modified by AHS guidance
If you’re a high school junior, chances are you’ve thought about college. You may not know, however, that winter of your junior year—i.e., right now—is the time to begin the process that will eventually get you there.
You have about 9 months before the earliest college applications are due. For the procrastinators out there (I know, because I am one of them), this may seem like an awfully long time.
To provide some motivation: if you do not start now, no amount of scrambling in the fall will truly make up for it. I crammed my college search process into the fall of my senior year. Because I didn’t do enough research, I was unhappy at the school I chose. I ended up transferring.
After researching and visiting colleges, your biggest job as a junior is to take the right standardized tests, which includes either the ACT or SAT. Beyond that, there are a few small-but-important things you should do in the coming months to boost your admissions prospects and ease the stress of your senior year.
Contrary to popular belief, your senior year is a fairly busy time. In addition to the big school events—e.g., prom, senior day, homecoming—you will be maintaining or improving your grades with the most challenging school work you’ve had so far. (No one reading this is going to “coast” through senior year with easy or few classes, right? You know that looks bad on your college applications, right?) You’ll also be completing your applications, which involves looking up information, writing essays, securing recommendations, and, in general, lots of thought and proofreading.
If you start the college admission process as a junior, you'll also be prepared to submit an early action or early decision application in October or November of your senior year, if appropriate. Many schools now offer an “early admissions” option and it usually gives you better odds of getting in.
Below is a roadmap of the essential college-related activities for your junior year.
Research, research, research.
· Cast a wide net
Don’t focus only on schools that are nearby, schools where everyone at your high school ends up, or the almae matres of your relatives. Learn about schools that are off the beaten path. You may find a school in another state that would be perfect for you and offers great financial aid. You’ll never know unless you “think outside the box.” To get the process started, you’ll want to . . .
· Read stuff
|You may be surprised by what you discover! PrincetonReview.com contains a wealth of information for students who are researching colleges. Its Counselor-O-Matic feature is a great way to get suggestions for schools that you might not have previously considered. Other helpful college search websites:
· Dig deeper
If you have a good feeling about a school, the next step is to dig deeper. After you check out the above websites, dive in and visit a school’s website to find the online version of its student newspaper, course catalogue, location, tuition, etc.
· Keep a journal (or a binder, or a folder)
Write down what you find and where you find it. There’s a lot of information out there, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. It’ll be easier to make decisions later if you have a written record of your findings.
Talk to your parents about schools you’re interested in…. & about money.
As you do your research, check in with your parents. If you are thinking about attending an out-of-state school, be nice and let them know.
Additionally, The Admissions Guru at www.howtogetin.com suggests that you talk with your parents about what they can realistically afford. While you shouldn't rule out a school based on cost just yet—a school may supply a generous financial aid package—it is safe to say that your parents will pay for at least part of your college education. Even if you expect to cover the bill with student loans, your parents will first need to provide the schools with information about their finances, which is a potentially uncomfortable experience. It’s best to keep your parents involved throughout and avoid surprising them
If at all possible, visit some of the schools in which you’re interested.
Nothing really beats an in-person visit if you want to get to know a college. www.princetonreview.com has articles on how to get the most out of your campus visit and how to make sure the experience stays fresh in your mind.
The cost conscious may want to visit several schools when they travel to a given area.
Register for & take at least one standardized test this spring.
Do some research on differences between the SAT and ACT and see which one might enable you to perform better. Try questions from both tests and see which ones you prefer. The Princeton Review offers free practice versions of the ACT and SAT online. **Ask your counselor if you qualify for an SAT fee waiver**
· It will serve as a guide for your school search.
Along with your high school GPA, your standardized test score will give you a good sense of your admissions chances at a given school. While there are always exceptions, your odds of gaining admission to a school are relatively low if your test scores are below the 25th percentile (the school would be considered a “reach”); conversely, your odds are relatively high if your scores are above the 75th percentile (the school would be considered a “safety”). A middle group (“match” schools) may be composed of schools where your test scores are between the 25th and 75th percentiles and your high school GPA is close to the average. PrincetonReview.com has information on how to manage a school list with match, reach, and safety schools.
· It will let you know if you would like to take a test preparation course.
Unless you get a perfect or near-perfect score on your first ACT or SAT, you will re-take it as a senior to see if your score improves. Most test-takers do a little better the second time around, and you have nothing to lose—schools always look at applicants’ best test scores because it makes them look better to admit students with higher scores. However, if you do not like the general neighborhood in which your junior test score resides, you should look into a preparation course before re-taking the test as a senior Note: many schools (and the list is continually growing) do not require ACT or SAT scores for admission. That said, you would be limiting your choices if you start your school search by focusing only on those schools. This is an option to consider later if you believe your ACT or SAT scores do not represent your full academic capabilities.
Register for and take SAT Subject Tests if you are interested in any schools that require them.
Begin Researching Scholarships. Use Naviance to search scholarships and check the Scholarship page of the AHS website for updates.
The Ansonia High School guidance office has a lot of resources to help make the most out of your college search and selection. Please see your counselor for college organizers, additional college search websites, and other information.