April's To-Do List for Juniors Working to Get Into Their Dream Colleges
April? Already? Time flies! Here are the things you should be focusing on this month...
WEEK 13 TIPS & TRICKS
- Do your schoolwork, so you finish the year strong. Of course it is challenging to do your schoolwork remotely. But you can finish strong. First, make a schedule and stick to it. That’s what you have to do in college, too, when you will be in charge of the vast majority of your time. Second, beef up your skills at being an autodidact. What? An autodidact is a self-taught person. We’ll have a blog post soon about some tips for teaching yourself. In the meantime, get your schedule up and running and do whatever assignments your teachers give you. Your final grades will matter, so put yourself on track for the year-end grades you want.
- Dial back, but don’t give up, practicing for standardized tests. Sure, it is unclear if and when you’ll take these tests, and it likely won’t be until the summer at the earliest, but you want to keep up your skills. So slot in 15-20 minutes of practice for standardized tests on every school day. If you know that you really need work on a particular type of question or section of the test, then start devoting more time to that now.
- Be creative about activities. Group-based, in person activities are not happening, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something meaningful while these things are on hiatus. Devote time to a solo hobby, help your parents manage the household (maybe you could cook meals, clean, or occupy a younger sibling), or find a way to do some community service (shop for and deliver groceries to a family who is quarantined or self-isolated, help people who aren’t internet-savvy with scheduling their vaccine appointments online, make calls to the elderly to make sure they are okay, etc.). Admissions officers will look favorably on those who were productive despite these unusual constraints. Plus, you will get bored and depressed if you do nothing but stare at a screen!
- Get a jumpstart on college applications. Here’s a short list of do’s and don’ts:
- Do create accounts on both the Common App and the Coalition and fill in the basics about yourself, because that stuff will rollover into your account for next year. (But don’t insert essays or anything like that because those will be wiped when they load next year’s applications.)
- Don’t write your primary personal statement or essay yet – it will go stale over the next five months.
- Do start researching different colleges and what attracts you about them. That will be important prep work for your applications down the road. Even if the colleges on your list don’t have a “Why College X” essay in their application, doing that research now will help you clarify your thinking about your college list and your possible major. Also, it will give you a potential supplemental essay to submit and help prep you for interviews. Plus – biggest bonus of all — you’ll get a head start on how to answer those questions, which all the adults in your life will invariably ask you! We’ll have specific tips for those essays later in the year, but you can start getting the lay of the land. Remember that you’re still in exploring mode right now; you’re not finalizing any lists yet.
- Do start investigating any portfolios or other artistic supplements if you think you might be submitting them. We’ll have more advice around these later in the year as well.
Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.