Normally, you would be visiting colleges in person. But COVID is making that more challenging. Juniors can still use this spring to search for colleges, start the application process, strengthen their applications, and gather recommendations.
Some colleges are open for limited visitors. Check the college’s website to learn if you can tour in person or attend only virtually. Virtual information sessions are a casual way to learn about a college. Typically there is a presentation by an admissions staff member. There may also be a student panel, information from faculty or administrators and a chance to ask questions. They will cover their admission and financial aid process including deadlines, recommended high school courses and requirements like SAT/ACT scores, interviews and essays.
Admission officers may also be “visiting” your high school. Check with your counseling office to learn how to register. Your school may use an online system like Scoir or Naviance to manage the college admission process–they will post visits and allow you to register via these sites. Most of the visits are virtual right now, but will likely be in person next fall.
There are also virtual college fairs through organizations like NACAC and College Board. The fairs will use break out rooms to let you meet with different schools and learn which might interest you.
Strengthening Your Application
Most students apply to college in the fall of their senior year, before first semester senior year grades are official. Your junior year grades will be the last chance to boost your grade point average before you submit applications.
While many schools are now test optional, you can work on test prep for free through Khan Academy If you have a copy of your PSAT score report, you can link your PSAT results to Khan Academy. Khan Academy will then customize the test prep–helping you strengthen your areas of weakness.
Create a Common Application Account
Over 600 schools use the Common Application as their application for admission. Students create one profile, write an essay from the common application choices, upload one set of grades and test scores, and centralize recommenders through the common application verses submitting multiple applications to schools. Schools can require additional information and essays as part of their common application, but it simplifies the process for applicants. Juniors can create an account and explore colleges through the common application. Member colleges can then connect with you and share requirements and deadlines.
Think about, or even ask, recommenders
Not every application requires you submit recommendations but many will. Now is the time to think about which teachers know you best. Who can comment on your academically ability, your work ethic, your class participation and your character. Teachers, coaches and counselors get inundated with requests for recommendations in the fall. Talking to them now, then getting the appropriate forms or links needed for your application to them in early fall, will give you an advantage (and make their life easier). Most colleges prefer at least one recommendation be from a teacher who can comment on your academic performance.
College admissions can be both fun and stressful. Preparation and planning now, will make senior year easier. If you need help, contact Coffman Consulting for assistance.