Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Advice for Your Juniors—Four College Plans to Make Now

By: Patrick O'Connor  Ph.D

Advanced Placement season is upon us, which means many juniors are spending every free minute with their nose in a book, reviewing notes, or trying to connect to a web site while shouting "Can't you go any faster?"
Given this frenetic level of activity, this probably isn't the time to be talking about fall -- but there are a few autumnal things to put on the smartphone, personal planner, or family fridge. This can easily be done when you're taking a food break from your AP studies -- you are eating regularly, right? -- and once August comes, you'll be glad you planned ahead.
Check Your Senior Schedule 
The first step towards college is to graduate from high school, and that won't happen unless you have the classes needed for your diploma. Schedules will be finalized over the summer, and computers make big mistakes sometimes -- so be sure to double check. Look for your schedule when it comes in the mail in August, and think twice about making any last-minute class changes to easier classes. Senior year is supposed to be challenging.

Testing, Testing 
The SAT and ACT are both given in May and June, but some juniors just aren't ready to take on these tests while prepping for AP exams and wrapping up their demanding classes. If you'd like a little space between your tests, you're in good shape; ACT offers a test in mid-September, and SAT has an early October date.
The challenge here is that you'll have to register in August for these tests. Make a note to check the SAT and ACT Web sites around August 1.

College Application Deadlines 
seem to be moving up every year, including many public universities where thousands of students apply. This isn't a good trend -- most students write better essays when they're in school, not on vacation -- but if your top college picks want your application in September, now is the time to know.
The best way to plan out your applications is to make a list, or develop a spreadsheet. Around August 1, check the application deadlines on each college's Web site, and list your colleges by deadline, earliest first. If your first application isn't due until October 1, you have all of August to hit the beach; if anything is due in September, mark your calendar forAugust 20th as the day to start that application, then go back to the pool.
Ask for Letters of Recommendation 
No matter when your applications are due, now is the time to ask your teachers for letters of recommendation. This may not seem like a big deal to you -- after all, they can use the same letter for every college you're applying to -- but there's a good chance you aren't the only student who wants a letter from this teacher, and teachers get very busy when school starts, doing things like, well, teaching.
It's true that you're crazy busy now, but this deserves your time and attention. As soon as mid-May rolls around, talk to the teacher in person and ask if they would be willing to write you a good letter of recommendation. If they agree, thank them, and follow up with an email or note, letting them know when you need it. This is NOT the kind of thing to ask for by phone, email, or text; if you want them to give up their time for you, you need to give up some of your time for them.
Got it? OK, back to Tolstoy, then on to summer.

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