As a rising senior, you’re about to embark on a very exciting journey—the college admissions process. The process is competitive and extensive, and the key to minimizing stress and maximizing your chances of admission lies in preparing during the spring of junior year and the following summer. As you get started, we’ve compiled five tips we swear by to help you hit the ground running during this crucial time.
1. Create a plan for letters of recommendation.
Letters of recommendation are a high-impact component of your college application, and almost every institution scrutinizes them heavily. Luckily, we’ve written an in-depth guide to letters of recommendation, here! To sum it up, here are a few points to consider when asking for letters of recommendation. Most importantly, we highly recommend asking early. It is best to ask in the late spring of your junior year or early the following summer. The more time you give your recommenders to write your letters, the stronger they will be. For most colleges, you’ll need two letters of recommendation from teachers, one from your counselor, and sometimes one from an “other recommender,” like a coach or job supervisor. For each of these categories, focus on finding recommenders who have known you for multiple semesters and who can provide honest and unique insight into who you are as a student and as a person. Lastly, your school may issue an official timeline/guidance system for asking for letters of recommendation, so make sure you’re staying up to date on deadlines or other processes.
2. Finalize a college list and go on college visits.
The summer before your senior year is a great time to finalize a balanced college list. This list should include a combination of reach, target, and safety schools that you would genuinely be excited to attend. If you’re still in the process of making your list, we’ve got you covered! Our eight-part guide on creating a balanced college list is a comprehensive, tactical breakdown on how to craft the right list for you. If you already have a decent idea of what colleges you’re interested in applying to, the summer is a great time to conduct additional research about their programs, specific majors, housing, and application processes. It’s also time to consider which college(s) you want to apply to early and understand their rules and restrictions surrounding early admissions. This is also a great time to attend college visits and confirm whether or not you want to apply to the schools you’re considering adding to your list, particularly if you’re planning to apply to one of these schools Early Decision!
3. End the year strong
It can start to feel like the school year is winding down in May/June, but now is the time to keep your eyes on the prize: ending the year with strong grades in all your classes. The grades you earn the second semester of your junior year are the last full term grades the schools you apply to early will receive, so they really matter! If you had lower grades your freshman and sophomore years, this can be a great opportunity to show improvement in your classwork over time. Make sure you’ve implemented a system of organization to keep track of upcoming deadlines, and study for any finals and other important examinations.
4. Wrap up standardized tests
Late spring and early summer of junior year is when most students will finish taking their standardized tests. If you have another upcoming test scheduled during this time frame, focus on earning your best possible score. In most cases, it’s not ideal to test again during the summer or during the fall, as it becomes harder to study and you’ll have less time to prepare the other components of your college applications. To study most effectively, we highly encourage you to take practice tests, identify your weaknesses, and focus on improving your scores in the subjects you’re weakest in. Note that some colleges are now test-optional or don’t accept any standardized test scores, so keep that in mind when deciding if you really need to retake a test or how much you need to study.
5. Set summer goals and start working on them early!
Summer is great for relaxing and spending time with friends and family, but it’s also an ideal time to make progress on some of your key goals. For example, if you expect you’ll be busy at the start of the next semester, late spring and early summer are great times to start brainstorming and drafting your college essays. Keep in mind that if you’re working on a personal passion project, the summer before your junior year will likely be your last chance to make serious progress and make a quantifiable, tangible impact before you submit your college applications. Another good goal can be focusing on succeeding and learning in an internship, summer research, or other summer program. These can be excellent ways to gain hands-on experience or further explore a field that you may major in. Whatever your priority is this summer, get started early, because come fall, you’ll likely be focusing a lot on academics and applications.
By keeping an eye on these priorities over the summer following your junior year, you’ll be able to hit the ground running at the start of senior year and you will be more likely to have a successful college application experience. If you’re interested in getting more in-depth help on what you can do now to maximize your chances of getting admitted to your top choice schools, don’t hesitate to reach out!