Believe it or not, the second half of your junior year is NOT too early to start preparing for the college application process. In fact, it's the perfect time to take small, manageable actions now that will make this summer and your senior year much easier.
Let’s look at what you can do now, as a high school junior, to start preparing for the impending college application process:
Focus on academics. Your junior year is arguably the most important year of your academic career. Colleges will rely heavily on your performance this year when evaluating where you're currently at and how you'll perform on their campus. Prioritize your schoolwork and giving your very best effort now, when it really matters - especially in advanced courses like AP or IB, which colleges look particularly closely at.
Consider gaps. Your junior year is the best time to get introspective and consider all the experience you have—or what you might be missing—before you apply for college. Perhaps you haven’t been very involved in extracurriculars or your grades weren’t great when you first started high school. Maybe you’re missing community involvement or volunteering experience. If you identify gaps now, you have plenty of time to address them before your senior year.
Participate in extracurricular activities. Your academic performance is one element that college admissions counselors will be looking at, but they’ll also be looking at the full picture of what makes you an ideal candidate for their school. Participating in clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities gives you another chance to shine. If you haven’t been very involved to date, it’s not too late! There are tons of opportunities at school or in your community. So, find something you’re into and take the leap to get involved.
Ask for letters of recommendation. The end of your junior year is the best time to ask for letters of recommendation. This gives your teachers and guidance counselors plenty of time to write a thoughtful, high-quality recommendation. The number of recommendations you’ll need will vary by school, so be sure to look at the requirements for the schools you’re thinking about applying to in the fall. I'll share more soon about what makes for a great letter of recommendation and how to get your teachers and counselors to support you with this; for now, spend some time thinking about which faculty you have a strong relationship with. Note: this isn't always the person you've had the smoothest sailing with. Sometimes the best letters of recommendation come from teachers you've had to overcome some rough patches with, or who've been tough on you in some way.
I'll share more tips on using your junior year to get ahead on your college applications in the coming months. For now, if you focus on the steps above throughout this winter and early spring, I promise you'll be in great shape. Good luck!