Priorities for High School Juniors

1. Wrap Up ACT / SAT Testing You do not want to drag testing into senior year. Here are the steps I would take

  1. Decide ACT or SAT (I’ve got details to help HERE.)
  2. Register for either the April ACT or the Feb or May SAT
  3. Plan to retake. Your options will include
    • ACT: June, July, September
    • SAT: May, June, August

2. Put Important Test Dates on Your Calendar

Spring becomes crunch time for testing. You can’t afford to forget and accidentally double book these dates. I’d want to add: By adding these to your calendar now, you can avoid surprise conflicts later. (Can’t tell you how many students over the years ended up taking the May SAT on the morning of prom!)

3. Plan Summer Activities

I know there is still some uncertainty in what will and won’t be available this summer, but we have to plan anyway. I know we all want some time off after this school year. There will be time for both activity and relaxation. Summer is a great time for students to explore interests and develop talents they may not have time for during the school year. Here’s an article I wrote in 2019 that explains why (HERE). Let me be even more practical (strategic) about this. Rising seniors will be working on college admissions essays soon. Many will need to select a potential major and they may even be asked to write about WHY they want to enter that particular field. Will your student have anything concrete to say? Or will their essay be entirely about what they “hope” to do in the future (but have spent zero time developing)? This fall I’ve seen a number of clients accepted at universities they considered “reach schools” or “long shots.” In every case, the student had a solid resume of activity and a clear purpose in what they wanted to do in college. Not everyone had a definitive career path. A couple were undecided on their majors, but passionate about particular issues. In so many situations your resume will play a role in the final admission decision. Take time this summer to make sure your resume is helping, not hurting.

4. Finish This Year Strong

Yes, colleges are painfully aware of the challenges students faced this past year. They know your extracurriculars have been affected. They know there have been challenges in maintaining academics. But the very first thing they will see is what you did this spring and summer. Plan to finish with the best grades possible. Study for and take the exam in your AP classes. Keep involved in extracurricular interests. Find ways to make it work. I’m exhausted and it is only January, so I know some of you are already counting the days until your next break. Spring fever is calling. (It is 72 degrees and sunny as I write this and I’m tempted to push off the newsletter for a couple days and sit outside and read.) This is why you have to plan to finish the year strong.

5. Ramp Up Your College Search

Hopefully you have done some preliminary work: listed possible schools, started reading up online, and visited each college’s website. Now is the time to get serious about the schools on your list. By the time you apply next fall, you want a list of 5 – 10 schools. Yes, you can apply to more, but the time and money involved grows as your list expands. Your campus visit options are going to be somewhat limited, especially right now, so take advantage of all of the virtual tours, Zoom info sessions, and admissions webinars. Prioritize your list, so when it is appropriate to visit in-person, you know the schools you need to see first. You may not need to visit your top choices now. This spring you might focus on the schools that “need to make the cut.” Hopefully, next fall and winter it will be easier to get the full campus experience at your top choice schools.

6. Understand the Admissions Timeline

This is hard because what worked when I applied to college (when you weren’t allowed calculators on any part of the ACT or SAT) doesn’t work now. The timeline is different than it was even 10 years ago. Here’s a quick outline (for juniors): Between now and June 1
  • focus on school and activities
  • take the ACT or SAT twice (unless you LOVE your first attempt)
  • work on the above items
  • finalize your college list
  • write your college admissions essays (I will have a workshop for this in early June)
  • keep developing interests, talents, and experiences
August 1
  • most college applications open and students can begin applying (This is the starting time, NOT a deadline.)
  • submit applications (with test scores, transcripts, recommendations, etc.)
  • Oct 1– submit the FAFSA if you plan to apply for financial aid
  • Nov 1 — this is a typical early decision deadline. Some schools may have different priority or early deadlines, so know the options at each school on your list
April 1 (senior year): this is the deadline for colleges to notify student who applied on time for admission. Yes, many students will have heard before now, but students who applied regular decision to the hard-to-get-into colleges typically have to wait until the last week in March for decisions to come out. (My daughter heard from the last two schools on her list on March 25th and 26th of her senior year.) May 1 (senior year): your deadline to decide. If you didn’t apply for a binding early decision plan, you have until almost the very end of your senior year to make a decision. This is great news for everyone who hasn’t had a chance to make all the campus visits they would like. There will be time senior year before you have to make a final notification to all the schools that accepted you.

How I Can Help


I’m always available for consultations to help work through your specific questions. Details here:

Test Prep

Details here:
  • 8-week class to prepare for the March SAT. Starts January 17. [FULL – email to join the wait list.]
  • 1-day crash course for the March SAT. February 20, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm.
  • 1-day crash course for the May SAT. April 24, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm.
  • 8-week class to prepare for the April ACT. Starts February 14. Meets Sundays 6:30 – 8:30 pm
  • 8-week class to prepare for the June ACT. Starts April 18. Meets Sundays 4:00 – 6:00 pm
  • 1-day crash course for the February ACT. January 23, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm.
  • 1-day crash course for the April ACT. March 27, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm.
Spring 2021 COVID Update: We want to offer spring classes in-person. As long as the COVID risk in Fort Bend County is yellow or below, classes will meet in person with students seated at their own 8 foot tables and all participants wearing masks. If the COVID threat level in Fort Bend County is orange or red, classes will meet on Zoom. (Students who have Zoom classes will be given bonus content.)

College Essay Workshop

Stay tuned. I will have details out in May. Every June I offer a one-day college essay workshop. This year I hope to have one in-person workshop and one Zoom workshop. Both will include an option for ongoing help during the summer. ​]]>

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