Road Map for November: Juniors

If your high school didn’t offer the PSAT or you chose to sit it out, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation just announced this year’s alternate entry requirements.  The College Board has also added a January option that your school may choose to participate in. I don’t recommend that you prep for the PSAT unless you have a good chance of qualifying for recognition, which requires very high scores. Of course everything is a little different this year. If you have 10th grade scores or can take a practice PSAT, that can give you an idea of whether prep might be worthwhile. If not, stick with my usual advice to take a diagnostic SAT and ACT, at home if necessary. Then choose one and prep for the real thing.

In the fall I’m usually encouraging juniors to do some college visits to explore a variety of types of schools and avoid packing all the visits into a short window in the spring. The traditional spring break college tour may be efficient but it’s also exhausting, and if you try to see too much at once it can all become a blur. By spreading visits throughout the year you’ll have more opportunity for a deeper dive into each college and more time to process what you’ve seen and think about what a great fit means to you.

Again, this year is different. Most colleges are offering only online visits, and while a few have socially distanced in-person tours, many families feel that would be beyond their comfort level as COVID cases rise. I’m hopeful that in the spring the situation will have stabilized and students will be able to visit in person, but that means students don’t have the extra time for much live exploring. Instead, make good use now of your remote options like virtual tours and online information sessions to explore without travel, develop a list of criteria for your college list, and then pinpoint the colleges you’re most interested in seeing in person. Remember also that online options also count for demonstrated interest, which is important to some colleges. And be sure to take notes so that you can refer to them later.

I’m continuing to get a lot of questions about the application process and how it’s been impacted by COVID.  One thing to keep in mind is that at some point you’ll be asking this year’s teachers for letters of recommendation, but it’s harder to connect with them online than in person.  This article has some good advice on positioning yourself for a strong letter.  For more on what has changed this year as well as what hasn’t, I hope you’ll join me on November 17 for College Admissions: A Road Map for the Class of 2022.