Touring can wait. Not forever. Just until second semester.
Parents of juniors often begin our first meeting with a confession: I know we’re late. We don’t have a college list yet and we haven’t looked at any schools.
Good, I say. You’re right on time.
There’s nothing like the buzz of a campus in action to seduce a Junior into getting good grades, taking an ACT or SAT and penning numerous admissions essays, but my advice to families is to wait until February, March or even April to kick-off the touring phase of the college journey. This way, students have a clearer sense of their cumulative high school GPA or grade assessments and standardized testing results.
So, what should juniors be doing instead of hitting the road and touring? Using this first semester to focus on the following three areas:
Choose a robust course line-up that showcases what you like to study. If you’re a history buff, take APUSH and if you’re a STEM kid, why not take Honors Physics? If your school doesn’t have AP options, Honors classes or an IB Program, don’t worry. Take the most challenging curriculum you can shoulder at your individual school.
To submit or not to submit? That is the question. COVID-19 was a huuuuuge disruptor in almost every ecosystem, and higher education wasn’t spared. Suddenly, colleges offered a test-optional (TO) mode of applying which meant schools that were off-limits to students because of their high median score range, became accessible. While TO is still on offer this season, many students are choosing to submit. My gut says: data rules. The more the merrier!
For some students, participating in extracurriculars and engaging in group programs are enjoyable; for others, it’s a chore. I understand both points of view though the Common Application (CA) portal has 10 Activities slots begging to be filled. I encourage students who are typically not joiners to join teams and clubs: sports (playing/managing), debate, entrepreneur, robotics, performing arts, yearbook, literary magazine, community service, Dungeons & Dragons, gaming — nothing’s off the table when it comes to participating in a hobby. Summer camps, internships, dog walking, babysitting, volunteering at civic organizations or places of worship are fodder for the CA Activities Section mill. Juniors should also be contemplating leadership roles; why be a player if you can be captain, and why be a member if you can be an officer?