Preparing for College-Your New 100-Hour Hobby

By College Counseling

Just as Junior year begins, high-schoolers should plan on devoting an extra 100 hours over the next 12 months to launching themselves into the exciting arena of college applications. Just as any teenager with obligations knows, putting aside specific hours for measurable tasks is the best way to attain goals.  It would stand to reason that if your goal is to attend a right-fit college, plans need to be set in place.

Junior year is your pinnacle of performance, it is the year where you add substantiation to your claims of your uniqueness.  For students interested in STEM college majors, you should be taking science AP classes and making contribution to class that are notable and acknowledged by your teachers.  If you are drawn to the liberal arts, you should be enrolled in classes that feature strong writing and individual thought.

The intended result of these academic pursuits, aside from expanding your minds, is to build relationships with teachers who write you stand-out college recommendations.  In addition, social science and philosophy classes will yield writing samples to add to your application, especially in the event you opt for test-optional schools that require supplementary writing samples. Taking leadership roles in the classroom and initiating dialogue with your teachers showcase emotional maturity and intellectual curiosity, two of the most important qualities of a successful college-bound student. (Requests for two teacher recommendations should be made by spring of Junior year, so teachers can work on them over the summer.)

Your 100-hour investment includes preparing for, scheduling, and taking either the SAT or ACT tests or both.  Test-taking tutors are effective in teaching the relevant material and the art of test-taking. They are sensitive to the specific needs of all students, regardless of their testing acumen. Taking both the SAT and ACT tests early Junior year gives students a strong indication of which one suits them better. A sitting for the test on which you have stronger performance should be scheduled again in the spring, ideally after test-prep practices have been completed.  Junior year summer or Senior year fall is the last opportunity to take the test for a third time if needed.  With each higher score earned, admission chances and merit scholarships increase.  Taking any test more than three times is usually inefficient and expensive.

Other test considerations include taking AP tests and SAT subject tests.  Completion of most of these tests take place during Junior year.  AP scores of 4 or 5 are exceptional, scores of 3 are commendable.  Most schools do not require SAT subject tests, particularly if you plan to report your ACT score.  For schools that require SAT subject tests, research the specifics of each college’s requirements, some majors require Math 2 over Math 1, for instance.  Depending upon your test success, test-optional colleges should be addressed on a case by case basis.  However, even test-optional schools require test scores for merit scholarships.

Developing a college list is critical to your pursuits.  The earlier you can address each college’s specific application requirements, the more streamlined your efforts.  As your Junior year unfolds, examine yourself, your skills, your gifts, and your interests.  Research colleges that comport with your style and personality.  Consider your learning, regional, social, and campus culture preferences.  Plan on taking some trips to visit colleges during high-school spring break, hopefully when college is still in session.  Ask high-school alums to share their college experiences.  Schedule tours and interviews weeks ahead of time and ask for more information on college websites.  Some colleges track interest and will monitor your efforts to visit them or at the very least, inquire into their programs.

After a 100-hour investment of time into this new hobby of college preparation, students will experience the satisfaction of time well-spent and results well-deserved.