It’s the middle of a cold, dead winter, and many people are looking forward to warmer, better days. The winter months sap our motivation, and the summer represents the perfect time in the future for you to finally start studying for SATs, writing college application essays, asking for recommendations, and enhancing your extracurricular resume. However, this is the worst way to look at your college roadmap.
Here are four reasons that you need start working on your college applications now:
- Finishing the SAT/SAT Subject Tests/ACT by the end of the junior year will lighten the load of the inevitably stressful first semester senior year. Seniors are already burdened with writing college application essays and completing their early and regular decision applications. This, in addition to all of their normal high school student responsibilities such as maintaining GPA and extracurricular activities, can create an incredibly stressful atmosphere at school and at home. By studying for those tests now, students can get them out of the way by May or June and leave themselves the whole summer to write college essays. This is the method that we recommend in order to maximize time for and boost quality of each task.
- Teacher recommendations need to come from a trusted teacher with whom the student has had a long term relationship. If he or she hasn’t already, your student must start talking to favorite teachers today after class. Regardless of which major the student chooses, most universities require recommendations from both STEM and humanities teachers, so it’s important from the student to have great relationships with teachers of many different classes. Building a great relationship requires hours of conversation, hard work, and strong rapport, which are not formed overnight. For high school juniors, the time to start asking teachers for recommendations is this April, so there isn’t a lot of time to start cultivating these important relationships.
- Students who start activities in the summer miss an opportunity to add a year of eligibility on the Common App. As a result, it will be harder to build a believable theme. Unless the student has relevant activities that he or she has put work into for multiple years of high school, the theme will lack the time span needed for it to appear as a genuine interest. Also, pertaining to recommendations, if the student doesn’t have any activities or goals to show his or her teachers, the student will not be memorable enough/committed enough for the teachers to be able to write a glowing recommendation. Therefore, students should participate in activities starting now in order to say that they were involved both junior and senior years.
- Participating in meaningful and challenging experiences this semester will give the student great material for college essays. Start a blog, found a club or non-profit organization, get involved in math/science competitions, write a research paper, or publish a creative writing magazine. As long as they’re related to the theme, these experiences will provide valuable material to discuss in the college essays. The most effective college essays highlight a student’s theme by talking about tangible accomplishments in a particular field. Without these experiences, even the best writers will fail to distinguish themselves from the rest of the applicants.
The time is now for high school juniors to build compelling test scores, experiences, and recommendations in order to create a strong and believable application. While your student’s peers are panicking in a last minute struggle to get everything done, your student will have already established a strong list of accomplishments if they follow this advice.