I recently had a chance to speak on the Your Daily Scholarship podcast with scholarship expert Dave Peterson about a topic close to my heart. For nearly thirty years now, I’ve been counseling families on managing different aspects of college admissions and have encountered the same issues over and over again. One of the most detrimental yet easily avoidable mistakes in putting together a competitive college application is waiting too long to address certain influential elements. Consider these five tips before or during but definitely not after junior year if you can:
1. Select Classes Carefully
Academic rigor matters, but don’t take on the toughest classes you can just because you have Ivy League aspirations. Make sure you commit to honors classes you are truly interested in, or else you’ll be spending hours a week regretting your choices. By the same token, make sure you think about all the classes you’ll want to take by the end of high school and fulfill any prerequisites in advance. This advice is especially important for future STEM majors who may need to jump on an accelerated math track in time to fit high school Calculus in.
2. Take the Test That Suits You Best
The SAT and ACT may test the same fundamental reading, writing, math, and executive function skills, but they don’t reward exactly the same strengths. Some students do better on one, while others perform equally well on both. Find out which test suits you best (we can help) and focus on that one–every single college and program currently accepts both tests equally.
3. Be Strategic About When to Take the SAT or ACT
I have long maintained that junior year is the best time to take the SAT or ACT. When to take the test during 11th grade depends entirely on academic readiness, goals, and extracurricular commitments. Don’t default to testing in late spring of junior year if an earlier test date works better. Plan ahead!
4. Remember That You’ll Be Asking for Recommendations
By the end of junior year or beginning of senior year, aspiring college students will need to ask teachers and counselors for recommendations. Make sure those recommendations matter by modeling integrity, maturity, character, and academic curiosity for your entire academic career, but especially throughout 11th grade. If you want a rec from a 10th grade teacher, take the time to reconnect on a regular basis to maintain a positive relationship.
5. Don’t Ignore Scholarship Opportunities
Most people wind up paying for college long after they’ve graduated, especially if they don’t think about how they’ll pay until it’s too late. According to Dave Peterson–a true expert on the topic–a number of scholarships are open to 11th graders. Even more can be applied for in 12th grade, especially by students that fulfilled the right prerequisites in advance. You can’t start this process too early, so don’t put it off!
If you found this advice helpful, you’ll LOVE the full discussion about how College Prep for High School Juniors Starts Now on the Your Daily Scholarship podcast.