Juniors: Now what?
You have taken your PSAT and received your scores now what do you do to prepare for the college application process? Believe it or not, now is the time to get started. It may seem like a long way off, but much of what you need to do to prepare is coming up in the next six months.
First, you need to plan a strategy for test taking. You will need to decide if the SAT or the ACT is the best test for you to take, and then plan when to take it (them). Many students opt to take one of each, decide which one is the better academic fit, then determine if you need to retake the one you select.
The PSAT was a good example of what the SAT is like, so you can make it easier on yourself to take an ACT to see which format you prefer. (For an explanation of the differences between the tests, look at my article from April 2019, “Everything you never wanted to know about standardized testing.” To view these articles, and all of my past articles, go to my website, Thecollegeauntie.com, and look for the “blog” section in the drop-down menu.
As with anything, play to your strengths. Decide how much time you can realistically spend on test preparation ahead of sitting for the exams. The more time you can devote to studying, the better prepared you will be for the test.
Next, you will want to make sure that you are on track academically – not only to graduate on time, but that you are taking the coursework necessary to meet the admissions criteria for the type of college you wish to attend.
It is important to note that many more selective colleges have more rigorous requirements for subjects like math, science and foreign language. Make sure that you are taking the required number of years for the schools on your wish list. If you are taking any AP classes, schedule your AP tests at the end of the semester when you complete the class, so you are taking them when the subject is fresh in your mind.
Have you even started thinking about where you would like to attend college? How do you begin the search?
Well, if you already have an academic passion like engineering or nursing, that will immediately make your search easier, since you will be able to search for schools that have your program.
But what if you have no idea what you want to study? Then you have to start thinking about other things that might impact your decision. How far away do you want to be from home? Does your family need financial aid to make your college dreams come true? What kind of grades do you have? All of these things will ultimately come into play in any decision-making process.
Have you visited any colleges yet? If not, might you be able to visit any next summer? If your family goes to the Mainland for any part of summer vacation, it is easy to incorporate a visit or two to colleges near your vacation.
Can you get over to Oahu and visit U.H. or Chaminade? Even if you don’t think you want to attend either of those schools, they are great examples of large public versus small private for you to view, so you can give thought to which you think you might prefer.
For tips on college visits, look at my article from June 2018, “Make the most of your college visit.”
You won’t actually be able to apply until August of 2020, but you CAN be updating your Coalition Application regularly with current projects and relevant coursework. You CAN look at the Common Application prompts for essay questions to know what to expect.
You NEED to plot out time for taking your standardized tests, and most students take either the SAT or the ACT twice, so take that into consideration.
And finally, start thinking about which teachers you want to ask to write recommendations for you. If you don’t already have a teacher in mind who you think knows you well enough to be able to write something personal about you, it is time to find one to get to know.
Test scores and grades tell colleges about your academic achievements, but a well-written and thoughtful recommendation from a teacher who knows you will go a long way toward telling a college more about who you are.
If you need help or would like a personalized timetable set up for you, please contact me!
Maryanne Hogan is an Independent College Admissions Consultant working with students on Maui. Visit her website, thecollegeauntie.com, for more information or to make an appointment.