Junior College Admissions Jumpstart

Is it too early for juniors to start thinking about college admissions?

In last week’s post, we talked about some high-level tips and strategies for approaching the college application process. It’s not yet spring semester (the snow is piled high outside our Cambridge, MA headquarters), and we’ve received questions about whether it’s too early for juniors to start thinking about college admissions.

The short answer is “no.” It’s not too early to start the admissions process. Here’s why:

There’s a big difference between “thinking” and “doing.”

Your junior doesn’t need to spend all of the winter break studying for the ACT or emailing teachers to ask for recommendations. There’s plenty of time for those activities in the next few months.

However, the foundation of the entire college admissions process is your student understanding what they want out of their college experience. Figuring that out requires thinking and serious reflection, and that kind of inner work can’t be rushed.

If your student hasn’t completed a Semester Reflection this year, now is a great opportunity for them to do so. It will help them think about where they’ve come from and where they’re going next.

Starting the process early can significantly reduce stress.

If your student’s college admissions timeline begins in January, there’s a much bigger buffer to deal with setbacks—which are bound to happen.

If your student doesn’t score as well as they’d like after two rounds of the SAT, for example, they can sit for the test a third time next fall. If a teacher recommendation falls through or a transcript goes missing, there’s enough time to deal with those problems and still meet application deadlines.

Beginning the admissions process early also allows your student to devote more time to building their college list, which is crucial to finding a school that’s a great fit for them.

This year’s college process may be more chaotic than usual.

We’re both excited and optimistic about the new COVID-19 vaccines (two have been approved as of the publication of this post). However, projections show that it will still be months before most of the US population has been vaccinated. That means we could be in for another year of remote learning, virtual college visits, temporary test-optional schools, and more.

In this ever-changing landscape, students and parents need to expect changes and shifts in requirements, deadlines, and processes. The most important time to plan ahead may be when you’re certain that the plan will change!

If your student can begin now on those pieces of the application that are unlikely to shift (the Common App itself, for example, or the personal statement prompts), they’ll have more bandwidth for the curveballs that do come their way.

Sheila A.

Sheila A.

Sheila Akbar is President & COO of Signet Education. She holds a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Harvard University and two doctoral degrees from Indiana University. She joined the team in the summer of 2010, bringing with her a wealth of experience teaching SAT, ACT, GRE, literature, and composition in both one-on-one and classroom settings.

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