Preparing for College

Sophomores: What to Expect Junior-Senior Year

The majority of my posts here on Admit This! concern high school juniors and seniors and sometimes current college students. This post, however, is for high school sophomores, those 10th graders out there who are sometimes overlooked in the realm of college admissions advice. So, just for the record, I want to address some thoughts to that group, who will be so-called "rising juniors" at the end of this school year. Appropriately, then, let me get you to look ahead to your junior and senior year.

The junior high school year is a year of decision and planning for college-bound students. Senior year is the action year. During both years, you'll continue to take challenging classes in English, math, science, history, geography, a foreign language, government, civics, economics, and the arts. As a junior, you must then start thinking ahead to your senior year. At the start of your senior year, you will decide if your standardized test scores are the best they can be. 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 do so at the end of your junior year (also preferred).


Early on in your senior year, get application materials from the candidate schools on your list that don't participate in the Common Application. Yes, there are still some that don't.

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 and, of course, the tremendous amount of college admissions wisdom contained on College Confidential.

The early Fall is also an excellent time to visit the colleges on your candidate list, even as a junior. 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! editions. 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. Once again, "planning" is key here. That's why you can start assembling your admissions strategy all during your junior year.

Early Decision candidates will receive their acceptance (or deferral or, unfortunately, even their denial) letters by Christmas. Regular Decision outcomes will start to arrive from February through April, with the majority appearing in March through April. Along with acceptances come financial aid awards. 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.

As a sophomore, then, you don't have to buy a telescope or binoculars, but you must look into the future for what you should be doing as a junior and a senior. Oh, and one more thing. If you haven't thought of it yet, get ready for the experience of your young life: college!

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.