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

It’s time to kick it up a notch when it comes to all things college related.
January 13, 2020

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 without going crazy?

It’s all about pacing, and our blog posts will help you do that. From now through the end of the school year, we’ll be posting every week. 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. You just have find a way to get that to-do list done by the end of the month and you’ll be on track for college.

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


Here’s your to-do list for January:

1) Pick 1 or 2 classes where you could bump your grade with just a bit more focused attention.

These are the classes where you have the B that could be a B+, or the B+ that could be an A-. Figure out what it takes to get the higher grade and start doing it! If you have no idea what it would take, go and talk with your teacher. Trust us, the teacher will be happy to give you some suggestions! Also, we’ll have a blog post soon with some tips for studying more effectively.

Why do this? Your grades in the last half of 11th grade are the most recent evidence that college admissions officers have about the kind of student you are. So better grades are just 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 soon to help you do this one.

We assume you know why this one is on your list. Although some colleges do not require standardized tests for admission, most do. Therefore, you’ve got to take them if you want to maximize your options.

3) Talk with your parents about squeezing in a few college visits over your spring break, and plan visits to 2-3 colleges that you have at the top of your list right now.

We’ll have a blog post about planning college visits, but you’ll want to go ahead and get to work on basic logistics for travel sooner than that.

We are aware that college visits can be expensive and not everyone can afford them, but we do encourage them because they are a very wise investment.

First, they help you make better choices about where to apply, which saves you wasted application fees, and long term can save you 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.

But if you simply can’t afford to do college visits, get online and find out when a representative from the college will be coming to your town (or one within driving distance) and make a plan for attending that event. It’s the next best thing!

P.S. Did you know that you can start working on your Common App applications as early as your junior year? You can save your work in your account until you're ready to submit during your senior year.

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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