Today's wisdom is directed at those high schoolers who will be juniors this coming school year. For those of you who have just parachuted in from a parallel universe, a "rising" junior is a student who just finished his or her sophomore year, an about-to-be 11th-grader, in other words. I've always been amused by that term rising. In my view, if you're referring to someone who has just finished 10th grade, why wouldn't you just call them a junior, anyway? They're not going to be a senior. This sort of sounds like a Seinfeld stand-up routine: "Hey kids, what's the deal with homework? You're not workin' on your home!" It also reminds me of a George Carlin bit when he says, "When I'm flying somewhere and waiting at the airport, they'll say, 'It's time to get on the plane.' Well, I'm not gettin' on the the plane; I'm gettin' in the plane. It's way too dangerous out there on the plane."
Anyway, semantics aside, if you're a rising junior, there are certain actions you should be considering as part of your college process. Unfortunately, some high school juniors procrastinate and (erroneously) believe that there will be plenty of time to initiate and complete their college process when they are rising seniors. This is bad thinking and misguided planning. So, let's consider the proper college-process mindset and plan for rising juniors.
The junior high school year is a year of decision and planning for college-bound students. Let's see why.
You continue to take challenging classes in English, math, science, history, geography, a foreign language, government, civics, economics, and the arts. You must think ahead to next year. At the start of the senior year, you will decide if your standardized test scores are the best you can do. If you're not satisfied with them, schedule the SAT I for October (preferred) or November. You may also want to take some Subject Tests if you were unable to at the end of this junior year (also preferred).
If you haven't already done so, get application materials from the candidate schools on your list. Early Decision applications will be due early in November, so it's important to get a quick start on these. November sneaks up very quickly on high school seniors. Schedule a meeting with your college advisor so that you can tell him or her of your college admission plan. If you haven't got a plan, you must certainly develop one as soon as possible. Take advantage of your advisor's services.
The early fall is also an excellent time to visit the colleges on your candidate list. All the students will be back at these schools and you'll be able to get a true feel for what it's like to be there. Don't forget to talk to students and get their honest opinions about life on campus. You'll be spending the better part of four years of your life at one of these schools. Keep your eyes and ears open for little clues that say good or not-so-good things about the school.
We've covered details of the application process in previous Admit This! posts (use the search function). The keys, though, are timeliness, completeness, neatness, and a strong essay (if one's required). Follow up with those teachers who will be writing letters of recommendation on your behalf. Make sure everyone knows what's expected of them and what the deadlines are.
Early Decision candidates will receive their acceptance (or deferral) letters by Christmas. Others will start to come in from February through April with the majority appearing in March through April. Along with acceptances come financial aid packages. Keep your parents intimately involved with these. Have them work closely with the schools' financial aid offices so that the very best package can be generated.
The final thing to do is decide which acceptance you treasure most and send in your enrollment information. Keep working your senior year, however. Don't turn off the switches just because you're in. Colleges want to see the pattern of excellence you've already established continue. And, if you haven't thought of it yet, get ready for the experience of your young life: college.
Congratulations! By then, you will have finished your college process and will be a rising college freshman. Maybe you'll have to get in a plane a go there.
Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.