College Admissions - Summer Activities for your Junior
Activities your child can do the summer before his junior year to start preparing for the college admissions process.
As your child finishes 10th grade and heads into his junior year it is time to start thinking seriously about the college admissions process. The next two years will be very important, not to mention busy. A little planning can go a long way towards making the process go more smoothly – and towards the ultimate goal of receiving that college acceptance letter!
Ideally this is something your child has already started thinking about. If not, now is the time! Keep an open mind in your college search and consider a variety of schools, big and small, urban and rural, etc. It is OK for the prospective list to be fairly long at this point – it will get narrowed down as your child progresses through his junior year. Even if your child has his heart set on a particular college, it is important that he take the time to research and consider other schools as well. The old saying of “don’t put all your eggs into one basket” certainly applies to the college admissions process. Sometimes the college that your child initially wants to attend ends up not being the best fit.
Once you have some potential colleges on your child’s list, take a summer road trip (or two) and go visit some of them. If possible, go on a campus tour. Take a notebook along and have your child jot down his impressions of the school so that he can refer to it later. College campuses tend to be a bit quieter during the summer so you won’t get a completely accurate picture of what campus life is like. As a result, you might want to re-visit the top schools on your child’s list during his junior year so he can see what the atmosphere is like when classes are going on.
Get familiar with the college application process
The summer before junior year is also a good (low pressure) time to take a few moments to get familiar with the college application process as well as the application itself. What are the application deadlines (early admission and regular)? What are the application procedures? Although your child won’t actually apply to any colleges until his senior year, it is a good idea to get familiar with the information requested on the application so that when the time comes to fill it out, he’ll already know what to expect. The common application is accepted by over 400 colleges and will allow your child to enter his information and then submit it to multiple colleges at the same time. Many colleges request supplemental information in addition to the common application. Take a look at the supplemental questions as well. Again, there is no need to start filling out applications at this point (and the supplemental questions could change before next year). However, as your child looks at all the information requested he should ask himself whether there are things that he can do during his junior year to improve his application. Should he become more active in a club or charity? Maybe he needs to take more challenging classes, etc.
Since your child probably has a bit more free time during the summer, it can be a good time to do some studying for the SAT or ACT. There are a wide variety of preparation options available, from books to courses to tutors. If your child chooses to do intensive preparation during the summer, especially if your child takes a prep course, then you should strongly consider having him take the first administration of the test offered during the fall of his junior year. For the SAT this is usually in October.For the ACT, this is usually September, but possibly October, depending on where you live. If he waits to test until later in the school year then there is a chance your child will forget what he learned and his skills will get rusty. If it is not possible for your child to take the tests in the fall, then plan to have him do some refresher work later in the year closer to his actual test date. Many prep courses offer refresher classes so be sure to investigate that option.
Prepare for academic success
One of the most important factors in college admissions is your child’s academic record. Colleges like to see that students have challenged themselves by taking honors and AP classes, and that they’ve studied hard and done well. Would your child benefit from taking a supplemental class or doing some extra tutoring? If so then the summer is a great time for it. This will allow him to start his junior year prepared to succeed.
Plan the year ahead
During his junior year your child should:
- Refine his college list to get a core group of schools that he’s interested in applying to.
- Take the SAT and/or ACT at least once. The tests are offered several times during the year. Consider your child’s sports and activities schedule and try to have him take the tests at a time when he’ll be able to spend some time on preparation (or review if he prepped over the summer) and really focus on doing his best.
- Take the PSAT. High schools give this exam to their juniors in October. It is a practice test for the SAT that also doubles as the National Merit Scholarship qualifying exam.
- Take SAT Subject Tests, if needed. If any of the colleges on your child’s list require him to take SAT Subject Tests, you should have your child take them in May or June. That way the studying he does to prepare for his final exams and his AP tests will help him prepare for the SAT Subject Tests as well.
If you have questions or need advice along the way, don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s high school guidance counselor. They have lots of information about the admissions process and can recommend colleges for you to consider as well as provide you with information about SAT and ACT test dates, etc.