Juniors: College Applications are Closer Than You Think
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Juniors: College Applications are Closer Than You Think

Dr. Mark L. Fisher shares some advice for juniors just beginning their college application process.

Dr. Mark L. Fisher
Dr. Mark L. Fisher

Juniors, if you are looking at last year’s admissions cycle, look ahead as well. There are some beneficial changes for you. In fact, you are in for a lot of work related to college this semester and beyond into the summer months. Will you be able to have some of your college applications ready by the end of August?

Everyone knows you have schoolwork to complete. If you have any AP courses, honors or dual enrollment courses you have competitive endeavors. Obviously, your course grades are crucial in your junior year. If you apply early decision or early action, this year’s grades might, at first, be the last grades you will be judged on by the admissions office. Of course, there are extra-curricular activities awaiting your participation, community youth groups, including synagogue groups such as NCSY, USY, NFTY, that will take up time. Perhaps scouting activities and a multitude of other tasks will occupy your hours. You may also have a part-time job that takes time each week. Add the college admissions process to your schedule and you have very busy days ahead.

Start now? But you are so busy. Think of the process: research colleges, write essays and possibly supplemental essays, take the SAT or ACT, perhaps with outside tutoring or online practice, design a resume, visit colleges, have interviews, complete financial aid forms with your parents, research scholarships, study in-depth a variety of colleges, complete the Common App or Coalition application and individual applications for those colleges not a part of either group. Some of these items will take place in the fall but be ready to apply in August. Am I kidding? It depends on you.

It has been reported that Generation Z has a bad habit. It is called procrastination. Is that you? Then you are in for a tough year. Last minute essays, as an example, and mistakes, aren’t impressive because admissions personnel sometimes can observe when an essay is a last-minute undertaking.

If you haven’t been seriously meeting with your school counselor, now is the time to start. Or, perhaps you are using an IEC (Independent Educational Consultant). Ask if the consultant is a member of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) or HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association).

By the way, your high school counselor, in most cases, will be one of the individuals writing your recommendation for college. If a book would be written about you, what would your counselor write? Just letting the colleges know the activities in which you are involved and your grade point average means little because admissions already knows those facts on your application. Writing about your involvement in activities lets the college know more about you.

There are some changes that may benefit you in the entire process. More and more colleges are joining the “optional test (SAT/ACT)” group. Meaning, with some exceptions, you do not have to submit those test scores. Wow, that’s great! Wait, not so great? This means that the rest of your application becomes even more important. Course grades and the rigor of your courses are looked at even more closely. That includes this year’s grades. Need any more pressure?

Wait. Maybe the ACT has come to your rescue. In past years on the ACT, you may have done reasonably well on three of the four sections. And you needed to take the entire test again to improve on that other section. The change takes place in September. You first need to take the entire ACT. One can take one, two, three sections or the whole test again. Yes, even one section. Can you superscore? Yes, however, only about a third of colleges superscore the ACT.

This past December, you should have received your score on the PSAT. Truthfully, what have you done with your score report? Looked at the score and proceeded to put it away, even forever? Benefit from the PSAT. That is your present task.

There are two categories on the test: evidence-based reading and writing, and math, each scored out of a possible 760. Note the benchmarks, which show your score against its college readiness benchmarks. In addition, there is a National Merit Scholarship score only open to juniors. If your score is high enough, you will be notified next September.

Using the College Board’s website, you will gain much information about your very own test. Were the easy questions easy for you? Did the hard questions have many incorrect answers? That is why the hard questions are hard. But where do you need to concentrate in the days ahead?

Create a study plan after carefully reviewing your PSAT score report. Or, do nothing and you may have regrets when it is too late. That is the student’s choice. No one else’s. Take responsibility. You need to decide if the ACT or SAT is the better choice to concentrate on in the months ahead. Try to study for one of the tests if or when you have two test choices to compare.

You have probably read articles about the declining population of students available for college. True, some colleges may have difficulty achieving their enrollment goals. But, for the colleges that you will most likely be applying, that is not a major factor to be concerned about in your search.

The University of Georgia recently announced its early action decisions. They admitted about 43 percent of 16,513 applicants. Students applied from 47 states and 39 countries. The average GPA for the middle 50 percent admitted was 4.0 to 4.29. The middle 50 percent average for ACT scores was 31 to 34 and the SAT, 1360 to 1500. However, of the 9,486 students not admitted, 6,800 were deferred. So, those deferred still have hope to be among those admitted later.

In this article, factors considered by the admissions office were identified. In future articles, some of those topics will be discussed in more detail. Stay tuned.

Mark Fisher is a college and career consultant at Fisher Educational Consultants, www.fishereducationalconsultants.com, and a consultant for the College Planning Institute. www.GotoCPI.com.

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