February may seem like a quiet period for many juniors and seniors, but the reality is that it's still an important month in the college prep process. Some students are hoping to get admissions decisions this month, while high school juniors may be preparing to hit the road and visit some schools.
For underclassmen and eleventh graders, February is probably when you should start reviewing your course selections for the upcoming school year, advises Andrea Hoffman of College Starts Now, which provides college admissions coaching in Florida. Hoffman offers the following tips for each grade level so you can stay on track with your admissions plan.
- Make sure you've added your spring activities to your burgeoning college resume, which you should have already created. You might not have a lot of line items on it just yet, but that's okay – what's important is that you have the bones of it created so you can quickly add additional activities, volunteering opportunities and jobs to it as they come along. That way, you won't forget them in a few years when you're filling out applications.
- Speak with your family and your high school counselor about the best classes for tenth grade that will help you meet your college preparation goals. When you register for your sophomore-year courses, make sure you're adding a realistic level of rigor while ensuring that the courseload is manageable.
- Begin thinking about how you plan to spend your summer. Consider a volunteering opportunity, some enrichment plans or a part-time job. If you need extra help in any classes that you'll be continuing in the future, think about whether a tutor is a good idea for the summer.
- It's critical to plan appropriately for your eleventh-grade classes, because it's such an important year in terms of college admissions. Ensure that your courseload includes classes that show an increasing amount of rigor and progression.
- Update your college resume with your most recent extracurriculars; if your school doesn't have a club or group that reflects your interests, ask about the process required for starting one.
- Think about how you want to spend your summer, whether you are planning to take summer classes, work in a volunteering capacity, start your own business or perform another activity.
- Continue with your test prep program and sign up for the upcoming ACT or SAT test dates if you are planning to take the tests soon.
- When you speak with your counselor about senior-year courses, make sure you include classes that will allow you to apply to your goal schools. For instance, some competitive colleges require you to take at least one class in the Arts -- if the colleges on your list have such requirements, it's imperative that you meet those prerequisites before you graduate to ensure that you can apply to your goal schools
- If you've created a preliminary college list, it's a good time to plan out your college visits, either for this spring or the summer.
- Think about which teachers you might consider asking for recommendation letters, since it's always a good idea to forge relationships now so you can ask for rec letters before the school year ends, if possible.
- If you're still in the midst of the application process, check your application portals often so you are on top of any communications from your schools.
- If you are on the fence about which of the schools you should attend, consider making another round of college visits that might help your decision easier.
- Continue filling out your scholarship applications and submit them by the deadlines.
- Finalize your FAFSA or CSS profile (when applicable) and submit them as soon as possible to ensure you get your financial aid package in time.
- If you've sent in your college deposit, make sure you apply for housing (when applicable) as soon as possible so you can secure a spot in the dorms.
- If your application process is complete, it's a good time to send thank you notes to those who helped you along the way, such as the teachers who wrote your recommendation letters or coaches who assisted you in getting scholarships.
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