May Checklist for Juniors Working to Get Into Their Dream College

The temptation is to become a quasi-comatose person who does nothing but stare at a screen all day. RESIST!
May 6, 2020

As we enter May, we are coming to the end of a truly unusual school year, since most of you have spent the majority of the final term at home.

And you are facing a summer that is likely to be equally unusual.

The traditional summer programs are moving online, summer sports will be solo adventures, and internships will be few and far between. The temptation is to just give up and become a quasi-comatose person who does nothing but stare at a screen all day.


Now is the time to finish the school year strong and get prepared for a fun summer. Don’t let your disappointment about what isn’t happening get in the way of what awesome things could happen. Here’s your checklist for this month:

1. Finish the school year strong. Do your best work on your last assignments for the year and study hard for exams so you can knock it out of the park on all the tests you take. This will make you feel like a superstar and leave your teachers with a positive impression of you as a student.

2. Ask teachers for recommendation letters before the school year ends. It is a good idea to ask two teachers to serve as your recommenders for college at the end of this year. It takes pressure off you next fall when you will be crazy busy, and if any of your teachers aren’t returning next year, you’ll be able to get information from them about how to be in touch. We’ll have a blog post soon about the nitty gritty of asking for recommendations, but for now, just put it on your list.

3. Prepare for summer by developing a list of projects that you’ll be able to do on your own and at home. Self-assigned projects are the best alternative to (and maybe even better than) the structured activities you were likely planning earlier this year. We’ll have a blog post soon with advice for coming up with your list of projects. For now, just start letting your brain wander and jotting down any idea that comes to mind.

4. Continue doing what you can to get a jumpstart on college applications. Here’s a trio of things you can be doing:

  • Write your story and your resume. These are things that you need to do BEFORE you start drafting essays, so now’s the perfect time.
  • Create your account on both the Common App (and the Coalition App if your high school requires it). Fill in the basics regarding yourself because that stuff will rollover into your account for next year. (But don’t insert supplemental essays or anything like that because it will be wiped when they load next year’s applications.)
  • Gather samples of your academic work and put together a portfolio (if you are an artist or maker). Currently, most of you would not need samples of academic work or a portfolio because only a few colleges and programs require them. But we’re speculating that more colleges may ask for samples of academic work in the coming year because so many of you will not have grades for the final term of 11th grade or standardized test scores. So why not gather these things up right now when you have time on your hands? The worst that will happen is that you’ll rediscover your best work and remind yourself what a good student you can be! We’ll have more about what makes for the best academic samples in a future blog post.

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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