5 Questions for Juniors to Ask to Prepare for College

Lighthouse-College-Planning (21)

What classes should I be taking in high school in order to prepare me for college and my anticipated major?

Students should be focusing on taking your 5 core classes each year, and then supplementing with classes that may introduce you to your preferred major. For example, students should be taking a course in English, Language, Mathematics, Science, and Social Science each year in high school. Even though most high schools’ graduation requirements do not require that students take this course path, colleges are looking to see four years in each area of study. Colleges are also looking at the rigor of your course load. If you are looking to apply and get into highly selective schools, you should be taking Honors and AP courses throughout your four years of high school and work hard to receive A’s. Colleges want to see that you are challenging yourself and are taking the most rigorous courses that you can handle or the most rigorous courses your high school offers if you plan on applying to an Ivy or highly selective college.

What does the college application process look like at my high school when I’m trying to compile the following various forms: transcripts, teacher/counselor recommendation letters, essays, and ACT/SAT scores?

Each high school has a different college application process and students and parents need to be aware of this process junior year of high school. Some of the questions you should be asking your college counselors are: How do I request a transcript? Do I have to pay for my transcript to be sent to colleges? How much does it cost to send each transcript? Do I have to request recommendation letters through Naviance? (Rule of thumb: If you have to request a recommendation letter through Naviance, first ask your counselor or teacher face-to-face, and give them a heads up that they will receive an email from Naviance allowing them to upload the recommendation letter. Remember to say thank you; it goes a long way!) Are my test scores on my transcript or do I have to send my scores directly from the ACT center or Collegeboard.org? Note: Some colleges require that the scores come directly from the ACT center or Collegeboard.org even if they are on a student’s transcript. When should I start my essays and who can revise them? If my school does not use Naviance, how are my transcripts and letters of recommendation sent? Do I have to send them through the mail? See your high school counselor often and make sure you form a relationship with him/her and the college application process will be much easier!

When should I start filling out college applications and when should I hit the submit button?

Students should be filling out applications the summer going into their senior year. We recommend that all applications be completed by October 1st, so students need to use their summer wisely. Applying to schools is like taking an AP course in regards to time. Applying is not hard, but time-consuming when you look at all the essays you need to write. The Common Application launches August 1st, while other applications open in June or July. Get a jump start in the summer and do not wait until school starts senior year to start applying! When you get back to school, you should only have to talk to teachers about the recommendation letters you should have requested before you left for summer, request your transcripts, send your test scores from the ACT center or Collegeboard.org, and possibly have your English teacher revise your essays. You should feel confident to hit that submit button October 1st!

What should I be doing during my summer/winter/spring breaks?

Research, research, research! A major component of Lighthouse College Planning is our counseling program. We recommend that students research up to 30-35 colleges and then narrow their list down to about 8-10. Researching becomes very time consuming and nearly impossible if students start senior year; we start this process with our sophomores. Our sophomores start researching about 1 school a month and by the time they are juniors, they then continue to research about 2 schools a month.
When researching, our students look at the following factors in order to learn more about each college campus and the academic programs they have to offer: majors/minors offered, retention rate (what percentage of the freshmen class returns sophomore year), graduation rates in four, five, and six years, direct admit programs if offered, tuition, percentage of scholarship/merit aid distributed, acceptance rate, acceptance rate for early action deadline, admission deadlines, SAT subject tests needed, location, campus life, and the list goes on…
Students should also be using their vacation time wisely by working a part-time job or volunteering on a consistent basis. Colleges are also looking for students in leadership roles and who take advantage of the opportunities within their high school and community. Students should also be looking into job shadowing or internships in the career field they are thinking of pursuing. Colleges love to see students gaining extra experience in the field before getting to college.

Should I know what I’m going to major in before I get to college?

Yes! Or have some type of idea. Time and time again, I have heard high school counselors say that students do NOT need to know what they want to major in before they get to college. I have also heard high school counselors say that it is okay to switch majors three or four times while in college! I do not know anyone who can afford to switch their majors three or four times!
At Lighthouse College Planning, we work with students extensively on career planning and goal setting. High school students need to have an idea of what they want to study when they get to college. They need to know the course track they will be taking when they get there and they should be determined to graduate college in four years. Nowadays, between 50%-65% of students are graduating in four years. What are the other 35%-50% of students doing that they are not graduating in four years? They are switching majors, not taking at least 15 credit hours per semester, failing classes, or taking full semesters off. Try to avoid the above reasons at all costs or the cost of college will keep rising. Make sure you have an idea of what you want to study in college and make sure the colleges that you are applying to have the academic programs you are looking for to further your future career. If you have three different careers in mind, make sure your colleges have all three majors or academic paths that will help you reach your end goal.