Road Map for May: Juniors

We’re getting into the homestretch of the year and juniors have been working hard! I hope AP exams went well for everyone who had them, and I know a lot of you are turning your attention to finals and perhaps an upcoming SAT or ACT, with summer break in sight.

Now is also the time to get started on college applications. Planning ahead and taking advantage of the summer can help you manage your fall workload and make the application process less stressful. Here are my top three suggestions of things to do sooner rather than later:

(1) Get letters of recommendation lined up before school is out.  Your school counselor is generally a recommender, and most students should have letters from two teachers in core academic subjects (English, math, history, science and foreign language). Teachers from 11th grade classes are usually good choices because you’re working at a high level and your work is fresh in their minds. Make sure you know the process for requesting letters, including any background material you’re expected to provide like a resume or brag sheet. Then have a conversation with each person. (You can also ask coaches, bosses, mentors or other people outside of school to write letters, but they won’t replace the school recommenders.)

(2) Make a plan to complete standardized testing by the end of the summer. If you’re taking the SAT, I recommend you have your last sitting by August if possible. If you’re taking the ACT, I’d prefer that your last sitting be July, and September at the latest. Having standardized testing off your plate will benefit you when you’re working on applications along with your normal school and extracurricular commitments. It will also help you finalize your college list, rather than waiting on test scores to decide whether a school should be in the mix. Similarly, once you have your final scores you can decide where you’ll submit scores and where you’ll apply test-optional.

(3) Get as much application and essay work done during the summer as possible. I like for students to have their Common Application ready to submit by the beginning of school, including the personal essay and as many school-specific essays as possible. The Common Application will shut down for a few days at the end of July to transition to the new application cycle, but you can create an account now and work on it. Anything you input into the the common sections (those in the “Common App” tab) will roll over to the new cycle. Be aware though, that work you do in the “My Colleges” tab will NOT roll over.

If you’re interested in tips and individual feedback on your applications and essays, click here to check out our summer workshop schedule and register for events.