(This essay first appeared on The PediaBlog on August 10, 2016.)
Attention high school students — this PediaBlog is for you!
Whether you are a rising high school freshman or a rising senior, dominating the process of college admission should be in the front of your mind. And it is a process that requires your attention, your parents’ support, and your time.
Rising Juniors: You’ve heard it before. Maybe you’ve seen your older siblings go through it already. It probably goes without saying: if you are planning to go to college, this is a very big year! For most of you, this will be the most challenging year academically. Many of you are challenging yourselves by taking AP, IB, and Honors classes, all of which will add to the pressure you may be starting to feel — especially if you also spend time playing sports, pursuing extracurricular passions, or working a job. This is also the year in which you have got to dominate the process of searching for, visiting, and preparing to apply to the college or university of your choice. Hopefully, you have read the first two parts of this series on The PediaBlog and you’ve got the process well underway. If you haven’t, well, I have two words for you: “Giddy-up!”
By the start of 11th grade, you have hopefully begun making a list of schools you might like to get more information about and maybe even plan a few visits. Attend college fairs that come to your high school or to other nearby communities. Keep checking up on schools’ websites for programs that might be offered to interested high school students. (Some schools have excellent pre-college classes that you could apply to for next summer.) You are going to be very busy and learning good time management skills and good study habits is extremely important if you haven’t developed them already. For optimal organization and learning efficiency, technology should be your friend. But it can also be your foe. Limit extracurricular screen time, social media, and text messaging with your friends while you are doing the serious tasks of school work and during the precious free time you’ll need with family and friends (you know, the real — not virtual — “face time”). Drugs and alcohol can be equally distracting and more destructive to the future we are talking about in these blog posts. Friendships and relationships, especially if they become sexually intimate, can also be distracting and destructive if they are not approached with the utmost positivity, responsibility, and respect — three traits which rarely typify your particular age group and one reason why these relationships usually don’t end well.
The big standardized tests — SAT and ACT — will come in the spring, so look at your calendar now, before the start of this school year, and pencil in the dates you think you would like to take them. Understand that you may have to take them more than once. Find a preparatory course that you can take to help you perform the best on these tests. (Your high school may offer a series of preparatory classes.) Firm up your schedule so that you can make appointments to visit colleges and universities next spring and summer without them interfering with your class work, sports schedule, job responsibilities, or vacation plans.
As 11th grade winds down, be sure to ask two or three of your favorite teachers, coaches, and counselors if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf. Don’t wait until after the summer ends to ask them! Most colleges and universities want to hear from others who can attest to your abilities, special talents, and character.
Your grades are important every year but especially this year. Colleges and universities want to see how much you are challenging yourself inside and also outside of school. Make sure that next year when you apply, these schools will receive applications from a student who is well-rounded, interesting, curious, and positive.
Because next year will be here in no time!