As September begins, most high schoolers are either already back in school or are heading there any day now. This means that the relaxing days of summer – when you've had extra time to work on college essays, summer jobs, extracurriculars and other enrichment opportunities – are behind you. Hopefully you got most of your applications completed before the school bell rang, but if you didn't, there's still time to work on your admissions plan.
Read on to find out exactly what you should be doing this month as you craft your college prep strategy.
- Investigate activities that you might find appealing. Most high schools have informational meetings for various clubs and extracurriculars at the beginning of the school year – be sure to attend a few that you think could be of interest, and join the ones that appeal to you.
- Make any last-minute schedule changes as soon as possible. Switching out of a class and into another should be done early in the year so you don't fall behind in the new class.
- Start creating your college resume. If you join a club or participate in a sport or activity, add it to the list – it may seem memorable now, but when you're preparing for college admissions in a few years, you might forget about things like making it to the finals of your school's DECA competition – these are important things to record.
– Determine whether you plan to stay in the same extracurriculars that you participated in during ninth grade. Colleges like to see a progression toward leadership roles, so sticking with something is appealing. However, don't stay in an activity you hate just to appeal to admissions officers. Think of extracurriculars as a way to enrich yourself and join the ones that you think will help you grow.
- If you're planning to take the PSAT this fall, register at your school, typically through Student Services. Most schools automatically offer the test to juniors, but students in lower grades are usually allowed to sit for it as well. Keep in mind that you may have to pay a fee to take the test if you aren't in eleventh grade, advises Arna Prakis, a high school counselor in South Carolina. "We allow even ninth graders to pay to take the test when the juniors sit for it in October, but that may vary by school, so check with your counselors," she advises.
- Stay current with your college resume by entering any new activities, jobs or extracurriculars to the list.
– Register for the SAT or ACT and begin your prep strategy if you plan to take the tests this fall.
– Prepare for the PSAT, which most schools administer to high school juniors in the fall.
– Gauge whether your course load is challenging enough for you, but also that it's not so hard that you won't have time for extracurriculars. If you feel like something is off about it, ask to meet with your counselor as soon as possible to find out if any other classes would be a better fit for you before it gets too late to change your schedule.
- Maintain a steady progression in the extracurriculars you pursued during the prior years.
– If you haven't written your college essays, keep working on them to ensure that they're perfect so you have them polished in time for your college admissions deadlines.
– Haven't visited any campuses yet? Check your college list and determine which schools you can easily visit this fall, then map out a schedule of college tours.
– If you need to take standardized tests again, register as soon as possible so scores make it to colleges in time.
– Work on your college applications, finalizing those with the earliest deadlines first.
– If you haven't asked any teachers for recommendation letters, now is the time to speak with them and ask if they'd be willing to recommend you.
- Prepare your financial documents because the FAFSA will open next month.
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