April Advice For Juniors

Stay focused on academics

Nothing is more important than doing your very best academically through the end of your junior year.  The single most important factor that colleges across the country weigh when assessing your application credentials is your grade point average.  They all want to see your academic performance at the very least remaining stable, ideally showing an upward trend.  Even though you are probably looking longingly to the end of the semester, now is the time to marshal all your energy and sprint to the end!

College list

Your College List should be firming up by now, including a balanced group of the so-called “reach”, “match” and “safety” schools, all of which you would be happy to attend.  Basic search tools such as CollegeBoard.org and Naviance allow you to put in characteristics you want in colleges and create and initial list.  When you do research, be sure to consult a variety of resources.  Visiting the colleges’ own websites is a must.  This is the place to get the facts about academic programs, student activities and student services, and application requirements.  Familiarize yourself with the specific application requirements, because this is “official” information.  Guidebooks and websites like The Fiske Guide to Colleges, The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, and UNIGO.com provide additional perspective.


Consider the results of any ACT or SAT tests you have taken and review them in light of the requirements of the colleges to which you want you to apply.  If your scores are not yet where you want them to be, consider tutoring.  Depending on your application deadlines you can take additional tests all the way through December of your senior year.  Additionally, if you are completing AP courses, now is the optimal time to sign up for SAT Subject Tests in May or June.  You will never be as well prepared as you will be after taking your AP exams.


Develop a College Résumé, which will be used to organize all of your out-of-classroom activities for your applications, to leave with Admissions interviewers, and to help your teacher and counselor recommenders to know you better.

Teacher Recommendations

Most, but not all colleges will require that you submit one or two teacher recommendations with your application.  It is strongly advised that they come from junior year teachers in solid academic subjects.  Please consider who could write the strongest academic recommendation and then ask that teacher(s) before the school year is over.  This at least alerts them that you’d like them to plan to do this for you (during the summer or in the fall) and will give you a chance to see if they readily agree.

College Visits

Many families like to visit colleges during summer vacation.  Though the experience can be very different in the summer when students are not on campus, particularly for smaller schools, it is still worthwhile actually to see the school, meet admissions officers and some faculty members, and to get a feel for the campus and the surrounding environment.  This is a time, also, to make some “virtual” visits either by utilizing many college websites’ “360 degree virtual tours” or by going to the following websites:  campustours.com, ecampustours.com, YOUniversity.com.

Summer Plans

Use your summer productively.  Colleges want to know how you’re using your weeks away from school, whether it be working, traveling, volunteering, doing research or anything that engages you and broadens your perspectives.  It’s a very good idea also to work on your college essays and applications so that when you return for that all-important senior year, you have the majority of your application work complete.  It’s a big responsibility and you’ll feel greatly relieved in September to have most of the work behind you.



April Advice For Seniors

This is the month you’ve been waiting for, working for over the past three years of high school, and now it’s time to make your choice. Here are some things to think about:

Weigh your options

After all the time and effort that have gone into your applications, now you need to consider carefully and thoughtfully your options for college and which is the right choice for you.  Though some of you are clear about your first choice, many have to weigh the benefits of several colleges before making a final selection.  Attending “Admitted Students Day” programs is an excellent way to help your decision-making, and it’s still not too late to visit your top colleges.  Seeing a college through the eyes of an “admitted student” gives you an entirely different perspective than that first visit when you were worried about being admitted.

Take a close look at the financial letter

Not sure how to read your financial award letter?  Call the financial aid office at each college and ask a few questions.  The goal is to determine just how much you are being offered in grants and loans, and how much more you will have to cover as a family – not just for next year, but for the next four years.

Make a choice by May 1

Make sure you accept one – and only one – college by the May 1 national deadline.  If you are waitlisted at your top choice and have chosen to pursue that option, you must still accept another college and pay the deposit fee to insure a space in the class.  The same thing applies if you are considering a Gap Year.  You must first confirm your place at a college, and then later ask for a deferment to pursue a Gap Year.  It’s always a good idea to submit your acceptance a few days before May 1, just in case the Internet doesn’t cooperate during the final hours when millions of high school seniors are logging on at the same time!

Share your decision

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to share your decisions with all of those nice people who wrote recommendation letters for you – your teachers and your counselor.  They care about you and they put a lot of time and effort into advocating for you.  Talk to them in person and send them an actual “thank you” note.  They will appreciate it.

Stay focused

Senioritis is real.  Do your best to fight it.  There is a lot to gain from ending the year with good grades, as you’ll be well prepared for final exams and AP tests, too.  Remember that colleges have the right to pull their admission letter, and they do this when warranted.  Use your best judgment at all times!

Be optimistic, not disappointed

If you have received rejection letters, even though they are tough, don’t take them personally.  Admissions offices have to make difficult decisions, knowing all the time that very accomplished, worthy, likable students will not get in.  Focus on your next steps and don’t look back.  Enjoy exploring the colleges that accepted you.  They are lucky to have you!