Second semester junior year – these four words will have students running the other way. This is the time that students either step up to shine or they become another number at school. Not only is it the crunch period for SATs and ACTs, but the dreadful question, “Where do you want to spend the next four years?” is the most common conversation starter. As the school year comes to an end, the fear of senior year starts to rise. Specifically, the fear of the college application process. Juniors across the country deal with the looming question: how is this period of time survived? What many haven’t realized is that first semester senior year is even harder! Balancing academics, standardized testing, and social life is always difficult, but now college applications contribute to the burden.
Mrs. Gonzalez, co-college counselor, advises to begin college applications during junior year to relieve some stress from senior year. But isn’t that a senior year “thing”? Absolutely not. The college search process is something that takes time and effort. Mrs. Gonzalez says, “Take advantage of the break from school and spend the summer months drafting and editing your college essays.” The Common Application prompts are already published for next year, so start writing. Ask your parents, siblings, and college counselors for ideas and suggestions, and start getting ideas on paper.” The process is made more difficult, not because of the length of the essay, but rather the restriction on how long the essay can be. It takes talent to share a personal analysis in under 600 words. Starting this process before the summer is one less thing to worry about first semester senior year. Luckily, Scheck Hillel has provided second semester juniors the chance to participate in the “College Readiness” course, where students have been drafting college essays, completing the Common Application and the Coalition Application, and researching different universities that could possibly be a “perfect fit”. No college or program is better than another; it all depends on what is suitable for each individual.
Another recommendation Mrs. Gonzalez suggests to her student is to work during the summer. “The summer can be a meaningful time for college exploration and preparation. Utilize family vacations to explore college campuses across the country, and take good notes about what features you liked or disliked about the schools that you visit. Use these notes to help shape your college search: are there other colleges that share similar features that might be a good fit for you?” Although this may be a scary time, everyone gets through it. And most important, reach out to previous graduates. They now have the experience to share; they can give advice and guide current high school students in the right direction.