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By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

When to start thinking about college - Rising Juniors

Uploaded: Jul 12, 2014

(Written by Lori McCormick)

In my previous post, I focused on the point at which rising seniors should start thinking about college. If you did not get a chance to read that post, it is in our archives. For this week's post, I am focusing on rising juniors.

For the juniors?

Brace yourselves! This is going to be a challenging but beneficial year. Many juniors will challenge themselves by taking multiple Advanced Placement courses, which will only add an extra layer of stress and adjustment. Managing the new class schedule and workload will take time and determination, but it is certainly attainable and admirable. Concurrently, juniors will also begin to prepare for the PSAT, SAT or ACT standardized exams. As you can tell, discussions about higher education and college preparation will become more "real." This is essentially your year to kick it up a notch and get your profile in good order. You should also start to take on more leadership roles in extracurricular activities, or at the very least, get more involved. Since, however, we are talking about college, let me offer this college preparation advice to juniors:

1. Plan your summer wisely. Sure, summer is a time to unwind and re-charge your battery. But (and more importantly), it is also a time to get ahead. Enroll in summer school or an academic enrichment program, volunteer at an organization you find interesting, find a summer job or internship, or spend the summer visiting colleges, to name a few possibilities. Whatever you decide to do, do it with intention. If you are already involved in year-round extra curricular activities, determine how you can take your existing activities and build more responsibility and leadership into your role. Instead of only asking yourself if X activity looks "good" on a college application, ask yourself if X activity is going to challenge you, help you grow, teach you something, help support your family, or spark an interest.

2. Keep academics a priority. Finding academic support is a key tool in managing your academic work load. It not only helps you gain full understanding of the material, but it teaches you study skills you will use your entire high school and college career ? and beyond! Most high schools provide some type of tutoring services. If there are not tutoring services offered at your school, or if the tutoring schedule conflicts with yours, find a tutoring service in your community to work with you. What you want to avoid is falling behind and compromising your grades.

3. During your junior year, plan on studying, registering, and taking the PSAT, SAT or ACT. The more preparation you can do in your junior year on your college applications, the more manageable your senior year will be. There are a slew of test prep centers in the area. The three main options to prepare for your standardized tests are to: self study using online tools available at the testing websites (www.collegeboard.com or www.actstudent.org ); use a test prep center that mirrors a classroom; or hire a private test prep tutor who will work with you one-on-one or in very small groups. The great thing here is that there are options for all types of test takers to fit their learning styles. Don't forget to check with your high school, as many schools offer test prep on campus as well.

4. Attend college fairs in your community or on your high school campus. Learning about various colleges, will help you develop a list of colleges. They can also be good fun. Can't get yourself to a college fair? Rest assured, websites like College Week Live http://www.collegeweeklive.com/ are available for you to attend virtual fairs. I also like to advise students that social media isn't just about posting "selfies." Most colleges have a Facebook page. It would be advantageous to "like" their page to learn more about the campus and upcoming recruiting events.

5. Your school counselors are an integral part of your high school career. Discuss with them your college plans, share your college list, and ask them questions about options they might have to help guide you. They are on your team and will support you in your process!

By focusing on these five items, your junior year will be especially productive, setting you up with a tolerable academic and extracurricular journey that will ease your way and make your preparation for college all that more exciting.