52 Weeks to College: Week 1

It’s time to kick things up a notch when preparing for college...
January 3, 2022

January’s To-Do List for Juniors Aspiring to Get Into Their Dream College

Welcome to the last half of your junior year! It’s time to kick it up a notch when it comes to all things college related.

We know, we know. You probably already feel stressed and overwhelmed, so how do you kick it up a notch and not lose your mind?

It’s all about pacing, and that’s what our 52 Weeks to College series will help you do. From now through the end of the calendar year, we’ll be posting every week. Here’s how that will work:

  • The first week of each month, we’ll post a short to-do list for you. Then every following week, we’ll post with some tips and resources for getting that to-do list done. The important thing is to find a way to get that to-do list done by the end of the month, and that way you’ll be on track for submitting your college applications when the time comes. 

  • Most months you’ll be able to polish off the items on that list with a few hours focused on “college stuff” and a little bit of extra effort directed at things you are already doing. 

Ready? Here's your to-do list for January:

1. Pick 1 or 2 classes where you could bump up your grade with just a bit more focused attention. These are the classes where you have the B that could be a B+, or you have the B+ that could be an A-. Figure out what it takes to get that higher grade and start doing it! If you have no idea what it would take, go and talk with your teacher. Trust us, your teacher will be happy to give you some suggestions to help you perform better! Also, we’ll have a blog post in the third week of January with some tips for studying more effectively.

Why do this? Your grades in the last half of 11th grade are the most recent evidence college admissions officers will have about the kind of student you are. So better grades are very helpful. Plus, it contributes to an upward grade trend, which is also impressive. Finally, it lays great groundwork for an OUTSTANDING recommendation from the teachers in those classes where you demonstrate your commitment to performing to the best of your abilities.

2. Make your schedule for standardized tests and a plan for test prep that starts at least 8 weeks before your scheduled test.
We’ll have a blog post next week to help you do this one. 

Although many colleges do not require standardized tests for admission, some do. If the pandemic still makes testing too risky at that time, you can always cancel (and we strongly recommend that you NOT take standardized tests if that would put your health at risk). There are so many test-optional colleges out there for the time being (including most of the highly selective colleges) that you can play that by ear as you get closer to that 8 week prep window. 

3. Plan on doing virtual visits to colleges. They will be offering virtual alternatives to the more conventional visits when people used to go to campus in person. We’ll have a blog post about planning college visits later this month. If and when the pandemic finally stops posing a threat, you can work on travel logistics for schools that you want to visit in person if your life circumstances permit. Our guess is that schools will continue offering virtual visits even after the health risks go away, because it is such a benefit to people who in the past wouldn’t have been able to afford to make those trips in person.

You should definitely do those visits, virtual or otherwise, because they help you make better choices about where to apply, which saves you wasted application fees and long term can also save you from paying wasted tuition to a college that isn’t the best fit for you. Second, your chances for admission at many colleges will be higher if you “demonstrate interest,” and a college visit is one really good way to do that.

When travel is safe again, you’ll find that representatives from the colleges might also be coming to your high school or town or region in person, and when that’s the case, make a plan for attending the event. It is the next best thing!

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.

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