Advice for Juniors

Juniors, Focus Your Efforts in the Classroom

Juniors, start the year off right by giving your best effort in all your classes. The 10th annual State of College Admission 2012 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that "academic performance in college prep courses" has been consistently rated as the top factor by colleges in admission decisions for the past decade. In 2011, 84 percent of colleges reported grades in college prep courses as decisive. One more time for emphasis: the grades you earn and the classes you take are important -- and grades in your junior year can be critical.

So focus your efforts in the classroom. Take a strong academic courseload and challenge yourself. If you are doing less than three hours of homework each day, talk with your counselor about enrolling in more advanced classes. First and foremost, what colleges will want to know about you is what you are like as a learner. Show them that.


Juniors: Introduce Yourself to Your Counselor

Juniors, although most of you won't begin the college application process in earnest until later this semester, there are some things you can do right now to get on track for a great college application process.

And here's an important one: Get to know your high school counselor. A high school counselor can be a powerful advocate for you and have a significant impact on your aspirations, achievements and admission results. So counselors can do a lot for you during the application process, but they can't do it well if they don't know you.

Whenever possible, students should be proactive. Make an appointment with your counselor, introduce yourself, find out when would be a good time to meet and ask how he or she would like you to stay in touch. If you take the initiative, you will make a strong and positive first impression.

For more information about college counselors and advisors, including what they will -- and will not! -- do in the college application process and how colleges interact with them, see Chapter 4, "College Counselors and Advisors," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance Step by Step.

Returning next week: Our Weekly Advice for Seniors... and Juniors, too!

Look for the return next week of our most popular feature on the blog -- our weekly advice for juniors and seniors. Each week, there will again be two posts --one for seniors, one for juniors with timely tips on what students should be doing now in the college application process, all year long. See you soon!

Daniel Gin, Niles West High School

Dan Gin had been a generalist high school counselor for four years when he boarded the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC) Bus O' Fun Tour. Road tripping for a week through ten college campuses in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, Gin realized he had found his calling. "I could be the one who helps students find the right college," he said. And for the past eight years, Gin has, as the College and Career Counselor at Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois.

Set in a suburb eight miles north of Chicago, Niles West is a culturally diverse public high school serving more than 2,600 students. Among those students, there are 96 different spoken languages, with the most common being Urdu, Spanish and Assyrian. Thirty per cent of the students are English language learners. Another 30% are on free and reduced lunch. And since Skokie is in the first ring of suburbs on the borders of Chicago, one in four students are transfers. So as the only college counselor on staff -- though he's assisted by 11 generalist counselors -- Gin faces some special challenges.

What HS Juniors Should Be Doing about College

Independent college counselor Lee Bierer has some great advice for HS juniors on the college application process. You don't need to know which college you want to attend or what you want to study in order to prepare well -- from planning for testing to a first campus visit. Check out all her recommendations here.

Juniors, Your Summer Checklist

As you head off into the summer, here's one last checklist. If you get some of these things done, you will be off to a good start when you return in the fall. And as a little added incentive, we've included links to prior posts with advice on each subject. Have a great vacation and make sure that in addition to researching colleges and writing your essays this summer, you rest, relax and recharge, as well.

Juniors, Five Things to Do Before the End of the Year

We recently asked high school counselor Kelly Dunham what five things juniors should take care of before the school year ends and we thought we'd bring you her great advice here again. BTW, she added a kicker sixth item that is essential for a smooth college admissions process in your senior year!

What are the five most important things for juniors to do before the end of the school year?

Conference with their high school counselor or college counselor

ACT/SAT test prep and take ACT/SAT (hopefully twice)

Ask for teacher letters of recommendation

Have an honest conversation with parents about finances

Online college searches, local college fairs, visit college campuses

And one more:

Be aware of college admission requirements:  required high school coursework, GPA, test scores, letters of rec, essays, etc.


For more information about applying to college, see College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step, including the recommendations in "Timeline: The Path to College."

Juniors: How to ask Teachers for Recommendations

Before the end of the school year, ask two teachers for recommendations. But remember that writing letters of recommendation is not part of a teacher's normal job duties. So keep that in mind and approach your teachers with a polite considerate request. Here are some pointers:

                *             Ask in person. No emails. A personal request is most thoughtful

                *             Do not ask for more recommendations than you need. Pick two teachers and use the same two for all your applications. (Note: you will need to ask teachers who fulfill the guidelines of the colleges to which you are applying. Check the colleges' websites.)

                *             Say "please" when you ask and "thank you" when the teacher agrees.

Here's a sound bite: "I'm thinking ahead to college applications and wonder if you feel writing a recommendation is something you can do for me."

Most teachers are happy to help you.


Juniors: Advice for students with talent in the arts and athletics


For students with talent and interest in athletics or the arts, applying to college requires extra preparation and planning.

Athletics: If you hope to play Division I or II sports in college, register with the NCAA Eligibility Center by the end of the year. And if you have not already, download the Guide for the College-Bound Student Athlete on the website.

Arts: If you plan to study one of the arts in college, submission of supplementary materials demonstrating your talent requires thought and planning. You should be working on completing any audition tapes, art portfolios, theatre audition pieces or other special materials that may be required for admission to the programs you are considering.


For more information about the extra steps students interested in the arts and athletics must take in applying to college, see Chapter 18, “Students with Special Talents” in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.