March College Checklist for Juniors

From The Choice….”This is the part of your college search that does not have a lot of specific deadlines. It does, however, have a lot of things you need to do to stay on track and set yourself up for the best experience.” Check out the checklist here. But….

I would also add that if you have not done so already, now is the time to solidify your summer plans. Many formal programs (academic and otherwise) are still accepting applications, so if this is on your radar act now. Otherwise, begin thinking about internship opportunities, taking classes in your field of interest, working or volunteering. If you wait until May or June, many opportunities will be long gone. Contact us for more information on summer planning and opportunities to take advantage of during this time!


High School Junior January-June Checklist

Spring of Junior year is a crucial time. Getting started on the application and admissions process now is a must-do. Check out this January-June checklist from Marjorie Hansen Schaevitz’s HuffPost blog for a more in depth look at what you should be doing now and over the next five months.

High School Senior January-June Checklist

“For some seniors, all of the applications are done and gone….For others, there are some left to complete. Either way, after you send in your final applications, there are a few more things to do to make sure you get into a college that’s right for you.”

Read what Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz has to say about what to do during the months of January through June in her HuffPost College Blog post found here.

Extracurricular Activities Encouraged

From Noor Brara @ The Choice on India Ink

“With so many students applying to the United States with strong G.P.A.’s and exam scores, the extras on your resumes and in your essays could help distinguish you from another student with a similar application. Whether it’s an internship, club, or doing magic shows for birthday parties on weekends, invest some time doing the things you love. Your interests and hobbies, however quirky, may be what makes the difference.”

Read more here.

August Timeline – Juniors

From Sarah Graham @ The Choice.

Keep Perspective

Relax! You are not behind. You can, however, start taking active steps now to make the admissions process as smooth as possible. Take a deep breath, and try to keep in mind that there really is a great college match for everyone.

Develop a Plan for This Year

Planning now will reduce anxiety later. Map out some key dates now before the pace of the year picks up. Devote a calendar solely to the college process. Decide when to tackle some of the bigger admissions tasks for this year. For example, plan to take the SAT and/or ACT at least once this year, as well as SAT Subject Tests, if they are required by the schools you’re considering. Take some time to review what each test covers, and decide how to prepare. Make a note of registration deadlines on your calendar.

Also, figure out when you will be able to visit colleges this year to block off the time and plan those trips well in advance. Aim to see many different types of schools at first (large, small, urban, suburban, etc.) to get a sense of what’s out there.

Find Out What Support Your High School Offers

The students who are most successful in the college admissions process are proactive and take advantage of the resources available to them. Don’t just wait for information to come to you: take the initiative and find out what services your high school provides to guide you through the college admissions process.

Ask how often you should expect to receive messages from your guidance office and how they communicate information. Make note of coming presentations on your calendar. Find the guidance office’s bulletin board, and check it often.

Thoroughly read e-mails and newsletters that counselors send, and pay attention when they make announcements. (Parents, this applies to you, too.) Too often, students have so many resources at their fingertips but fail to realize that until it’s too late to take advantage of them. Likewise, families often spend big money on college admissions services when they can get the same (if not better) information for free.

Also, when you meet with your counselor, go prepared with a list of updates about what you’ve been doing in regard to the college process, as well as a list of questions.

Reflect on Your Activities

Now that you’re halfway through high school, it’s a great time to reassess your extracurricular activities. When I worked in admissions and read applications, I loved to see students who were excited about what they did outside the classroom. Communicate that enthusiasm by taking on more responsibilities in the activities you love and by seeking to develop those interests to the fullest.

Set some goals for this year: Aim for quality and not quantity in your activities. Love the things you do, and take on more leadership in those areas. No time? Consider cutting back on one or two activities you don’t like as much to make time to pursue others in greater depth.

Keep the Focus on Academics

As you gear up for junior year and the new tasks it will bring, remember your studies still need to come first. The story that your transcript tells about you as a student will be the most important part of your college application. Also, working hard, meeting with teachers for extra help and developing knowledge of how you study and learn best will help make you a more successful college student.

Start to Research Different Majors

Take some time now to read about majors that sound appealing to you, and gain a sense of what’s involved when studying towards those majors. Most students change their minds about a major when they get to college (and that’s fine), but it’s still a good idea to start getting a sense of what’s out there. Your focus now should not be on choosing a major definitively but on learning more about your options. More information about majors and careers can be found online, like the College Board’s Big Future Web site. For more detailed career information, students often enjoy the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Savor the Rest of the Summer

While I recommend you follow up on these action items, please also take some time while the weather’s warm and the days are long to enjoy a few more ice cream cones with friends, take a long walk at sunset and rest up to start the new academic year rejuvenated. Sure, it may be a busy year ahead, but you’re ready for it!



August Timeline – Seniors

From Chris Teare @ The Choice:

Do the Summer Reading

Over 30 years, the students I’ve seen get the best results out of the college process are the ones who take care of business one day, one class, one assignment at a time. They’re not flashy; they’re steady. When I coached lacrosse, I said, “Pick up the next groundball.” Little things add up. Stop texting, log off Facebook, turn off your cellphone — and read. Not the SparkNotes. The book.

Pick the Right Courses

Selective colleges often start their review with your transcript, and strength of program is the first criterion of selection. Make sure your final transcript will include four years of the “five basic food groups”: English, math, history, science and foreign language. If you substitute from elsewhere on the curricular menu, select a course of equal or greater rigor in an area that better suits your abilities and interests. Make sure senior year is at least as challenging as junior year.

Keep Testing Under Control

By now, I hope you know whether you like the SAT or ACT better. Focus on the exam that works for you; if you prepare well enough, you’ll be likely to receive your highest score on the first or second attempt. Take your SAT II Subject Tests, if you must, whenever you’ll know as much as you can. Then forget bubble tests. Your scores are what they are. Stressing won’t raise them. Say the Serenity Prayer. Go test-optional. Focus your energy on classes, activities, and applications.

Keep Extra-Curricular Activities in Perspective

Remember that the hyphenate is extra-curricular. Even if you are being recruited for a talent in athletics or the arts, you must find a good deal of time to hone that skill set. You are no good to anyone if you run yourself into the ground by trying to do too much. Breathe. Eat. Sleep. Chill now and then.

Start Your Applications

If you haven’t already done so, create accounts. Use the Common App. Invest increments of time early on: When you have a little time, fill out the simple stuff. When you have a little more, add your activities and work experiences. When you can carve out still more, start drafting your activity paragraph and essay. Start on the supplements. Good writing usually takes time. Accept advice. Show what you have to your counselor or best teacher.

Create a List of College Fits

Shop for value: Figure out the program, size, type, location, personality, and likely final cost of the colleges that best suit you. Then list colleges that you might get into, some that you should get into, and two that you will get into.

Make more decisions up front. Be realistic. Make sure you can cover the cost. I like lists of six colleges. I understand nine. Beyond that, you’re denying reality, deferring decisions, and making the spring harder, via too many rejections or too many offers. Save yourself time, angst, and your parents’ money.


Tips from CollegeWise I Can Stand Behind

Here are five expert tips from Weiner to keep in mind to give students even more college options for when they apply, whether it’s next year or several years down the road:  

1.  It’s never too late to improve.
“If you believe your current GPA is not a good representation of how well you can really do, start improving now. It’s almost certainly not too late. Colleges will look closely at your junior year performance, and many will even take the first semester of your senior year into account.   They’ll particularly pay attention to a trend of improvement. Don’t give up.  Show them that you are a late bloomer and getting better with age. Even if you’ve only got one semester left to show colleges what you’re capable of doing, show them!  Start now.”

2.  Maximize your academic strengths.
“Yes, it’s important to try hard in all your classes. But many students spend so much time trying to fix academic weaknesses that they forget to make the most of their innate strengths. If you’ve always liked history, take more demanding history courses. Take a Civil War or other history class over the summer at a local community college. Colleges aren’t just looking at your overall GPA – they’re always looking for signs of an academic spark in particular areas.”  

3.  Work, Intern – or Volunteer.
“Summer jobs or internships are great opportunities to learn new skills, network and beef up your college resume. February and March are not too soon to start trying to find work for this coming summer. If you can afford to intern unpaid, you might be able to get more cerebral and impressive experience, so call local law firms, publishers, radio stations and offer to work for free. If you need the cash, there is nothing wrong with babysitting, cleaning or painting neighbors’ houses, or flipping burgers. You can demonstrate responsibility, a strong work ethic and the ability to juggle and fulfill commitments – and make some money for college. One of the best things you can do this summer is help your community. Most charities need help and are more than willing to work around your schedule. Call the Sierra Club, Ronald McDonald House, whatever meets your interest. Volunteer work is challenging and rewarding – and, yes, it looks great on college applications. By the way, working and volunteering are not mutually exclusive, and doing both is impressive to anyone taking a look at your qualifications.”

4.  Take responsibility for your academic performance.
“I see a lot of students who try to blame other people for their own academic shortcomings, saying things like, ‘I got a D because my teacher didn’t like me.’ Colleges don’t want students who make excuses. If you haven’t done as well as you’d like to in high school, admit it and be honest about why that happened.  Show colleges you’ve learned from your mistakes by admitting fault and turning your performance around immediately. Colleges will be impressed by the maturity you show when you take responsibility for your actions and do what it takes to change.”    

5.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
“Many of the students who earn the best grades are the same ones who aren’t afraid to admit when they just don’t get it. There’s no shame in asking for help. So if you didn’t understand a single syllable in your trigonometry class today, ask the teacher after class. If you studied really hard and still did poorly on your chemistry test, meet with your teacher and try to find out where you went wrong – and how to do better. If you’re having trouble in a number of your classes and think you might need to make some changes or get tutoring, talk with your counselor and get his or her advice.  Students who are willing to ask for extra help when they need it are the ones who are eager to learn and who impress teachers, counselors and colleges.”