Junior Year Checklist: 10 Ways to start the college process NOW

Junior Year Checklist: 10 Ways to start the college process NOW

Top 10 Starters for Junior Year Checklist

One of the number one questions I get from parents is, “I have a junior in high school. When do you think I should get started on the college search?” Here is my immediate answer - NOW! If you have a junior in high school it is time to start thinking about the college process. It might seem like you are moving too fast and starting in March of junior year to discern about the college process seems early, but let me assure you, it is not, and your future self will thank you.

But here is the second question that almost always follows the first, “How do I get started?”. A lot of times just the idea of helping your student to start the college process can seem overwhelming. It’s possible that your student’s counselor might not have met with you yet to go over the junior year checklist. So in this post, I am moving aside the elusive curtain and giving you my top ten must-dos in your student’s junior year to help you feel confident that you can start today!

  1. Sit down with your student to discuss expectations.

    This is SO important to beginning a healthy college process. Your family needs to have a conversation to discuss each person’s expectations and hopes surrounding this process. Each person needs to be heard, and not one expectation should be deemed as silly or unimportant. This will give you a good idea of what everyone’s expectations are for this process, and how you can move forward as a team.

  2. Set financial expectations.

    If you have financial needs or expectations for how much you can afford to pay for college tuition, this NEEDS to be conveyed to your student. It is important to have this discussion so when you start to explore options so both you and your student are aware of cost. If a college they are accepted to is too expensive after scholarships and loans, then you have already had that tough conversation that it will be impossible to attend.

  3. Start a list of must-haves and must-nots.

    Once you start to lay out what your student must have in a school; location, size, programs, student career opportunities, it starts to make it easier to create a list of schools to visit.

  4. Speaking of visiting schools…

    Over spring break or summer vacation, it is SO important to take a few trips to the schools that your student is considering. Check out the campus, meet current students, take a tour, meet the admissions staff. All of these actions will make the final decision easier of where to apply.

  5. Make an appointment with school counselor.

    This one is important. As a former school counselor, I know how important it is to get on their radar early and to get their input to the schools your student is interested. Also, the counselor will need to write your student a recommendation letter, so starting that relationship now will be beneficial.

  6. Identify teachers to write letters of recommendation.

    By the spring of junior year, start helping your student to think of two teachers to write letters of recommendation. These teachers don’t have to be in classes your student earned A’s, but classes where they worked hard, sought extra help, and were able to get to know his or her work ethic. Once you identify these teachers, ask!!

  7. Write a resume.

    When you ask a teacher to write a letter of recommendation, your student should also provide them with a resume that highlights his or her accomplishments. Also, the importance of learning to write a resume now is a skill that they will be able to utilize forever. Also, here are a few tips from my previous blog post.

  8. Apply for a summer job or internship.

    Making sure that your student stays busy over the summer is not just helpful to them, but also to you! They can make a little extra cash on the side while learning the importance of managing money, and responsibility. The summer job doesn’t have to be related to their interests in academics, it can just be something to help them develop these soft-skills.

  9. Make a plan.

    Start to plan out a college application calendar. Identify the dates that your student would like to ideally apply to college (Early Action, Regular Decision, etc) and start to work backwards to add important actions to the calendar.

  10. Don’t wait!

    Whatever you do, just don’t wait to do everything until the fall of senior year. This will leave you and your student stressed out with too many things on your plate for last minute. And we all know how that storyline goes.

Try out a few of these starting points, and just like number ten says, don’t wait until the last minute. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me! Let’s start this college process out on the right foot in junior year!


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