While most high school seniors are wading through admission decisions, pondering their college fate before the admission gods, and parents are contemplating just how they're going to pay for it all, high school juniors (and to a lesser extent - if at all, Sophomores), waiting in the wings, are busy, er, ah, um, busy doing, hmmm... What exactly are high school juniors busy doing?
Dollars to doughnuts (who says that anymore?), while juniors -- and the parents of same -- may have much on their respective plates, preparing for the madness of college applications and admissions (and we mean seriously preparing, folks) isn't likely a side dish, or so much as a snack at this moment. 

Chances are, the old, "wait til next year" (gee, it is next year), or, at least, until the junior year of high school is over, is in play. 

Too bad, for this is precisely the time when high school juniors (and their parental units) should not only be thinking of college, but actively putting plans in place -- as well as setting the wheels in motion -- to jump start college admissions.

Yes, now -- not August 1, 2023 when Common App for 2023-24 goes live -- is the time for high school sophs to take action!

 what can sophomores do, aside from planning for junior prom and downloading the latest App on their iPhones? Well, here's a short (and by no means all-inclusive) list:

1. Keep Up Your Grades. This is first and foremost on the "To Do" list. For all the talk about grades not meaning what they used to, guess what? They do and they will. If your grades are up there, keep it going. If they need improvement, hit the books. It will be too late midway through your senior year to say, "Uh, oh! I should have put more effort into Chemistry." And believe us when we say that raising that GPA becomes more difficult with each passing semester. Think a tenth of a point doesn't matter? Think Olympics. That squeaker that beat out the other guy by 1/100th of a point makes all the difference in the world!

2. Plan A Rigorous Course-load for Junior and Senior Year. Sorry, but junior and certainly, senior years of high school are no time to slack off. Basket Weaving 101 is out. College level courses (for which you might actually score college credit) are in. [Think "Dual Enrollment," if the high school offers same.] That's not to say you should be loading up on five or six APs. In fact, we advise against that. You should, however, make a strong academic showing, challenging yourself, and demonstrating to college admissions officers that you've got what it takes to succeed once inside those ivy-covered gates.

3. *Take the ACT and the SAT Once. Then, if you're not satisfied with your score, take the exam on which you scored higher, relatively, again. In preparation, while those prep courses may provide a good foundation, and private tutors can help shore up weak spots and give you focus, nothing beats practice, practice, practice. [If possible, complete all standardized tests during the Junior year.]

*Most colleges have gone "Test-Optional" this year, and many will dispense with the test next year as well. The SAT Writing section is gone, as are the Subject Tests, the so-called SATII. This means that you need not submit test scores in order for your application to be considered, and the lack of test scores will not adversely impact upon the consideration of your application. Check websites of colleges you may be interested in for specific test requirements. For a complete list of Test-Optional colleges, visit 

4. Get To Know Your Guidance Counselor. How many times have you met (virtually, or otherwise) with your Guidance Counselor this year? Once? Twice? Not at all? Reach out to your Guidance Counselor. The Guidance office is a gold mine, and yet, it is all too easy to simply pass over this resource on your way to the Kitchen Islands. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Stir some interest in Guidance and your efforts are likely to pay off, big time.

5. Set Up A Dedicated Email Address for College Stuff. Nothing worse than missing an important email from a college, your college advisor, a scholarship, or who knows what because you're getting email from everyone (friends, the Nigerian counsel, the folks who sell the little blue pill, "you may already be a winner..."), while the email from college goes to Junk mail. [Suggestion: Set up a Gmail account, such as YourName2024@gmail.com. Use this email for all of your college-related accounts.]

6. Start Searching and Applying for College Scholarships. Sure, it's tough enough to get high schoolers (let alone those already in college and footing that hefty tuition bill) to apply for scholarships. Still, there's lots of FREE money out there, if you know where to look for it and how to go after it. And the best news is that many scholarship opportunities are available to high school juniors, and some for high school sophomores and freshmen. Strike while the iron is just getting warmed up (and your classmates are consumed by that barely visible zit on their chins). Good places to start? Try scholarship search engines such as FastwebMeritAidNicheCollege and Chegg. [They can also help you get started on your college searches.]

7. Take A Look At Colleges. It may be a bit early to pack up the car and head off on a road trip to colleges across the nation, but heck, with the Internet, you can -- and should -- take a virtual tour of almost every college (University of Guam, anyone?) without having to get out of your PJs (like you were ever planning on doing that, anyway :-) or leaving the comfort (and pile of dirty clothes) of your bedroom. Virtual tours are available -- and FREE -- any time of day or night, at websites such as YouniversityTV.comCampusTours.com and eCampusTours.com (because CampusTours.com was already taken :-). Check 'em out before you spend the time, money, and face masks to head out to campus! [And when you do head out to campus, let them know you're coming. Schedule a tour (typically via the college's website). Meet with an admissions rep. Sit in on a class. Stay overnight in a dorm room. And, by all means, try the food. Remember, Mom won't be cooking for you while you're away at college! Okay, maybe she will. Still, you might get hungry between classes.] Want to get a rough guesstimate of your "chances" of gaining admission to a particular college or university? Visit CollegeData.com. [Also a great place to begin to build your college list, along with CollegeRaptor.com and College Board's Big Future.] 

Have an idea of the colleges to which you would like to apply? Visit their websites. Check out the admissions criteria, application deadlines, programs, costs, and the like.

8. Look Over (And actually start  The Common App. While there may be changes to Common App before you are ready to submit your applications, you can still get a pretty good idea as to form and format, which will help you prepare, organize and gather data and information needed to complete the required forms. Also, Common App will "rollover" and save data from the 2022-23 application to the 2023-24 version, and again to the 2024-25 edition. So high school juniors and sophs )even freshmen, if so inclined) can actually start their Common Applications now. [HINT: When the 2023-24 version is unveiled August 1, 2023, be sure to read the instructions and content carefully, as certain critical aspects may have changed!]

9. Create Your Resume On Naviance. Yes, during the college application process, you will be building that Resume, over and over and over again. Start with the Resume on Naviance (for those high schools utilizing this platform), found under the About Me section, My Stuff. Include everything you have done, in and out of school, academic, sports, clubs, community service, etc., from the 9th Grade on. Yes. Yes. I know. Other than the occasional visit to the bathroom, activities in the time of Covid-19 have been limited, to say the least. Dig deep. Volunteer virtually. Join an online club. Seek and ye shall find. The world is opening up once again!

10. Avoid The College Fiscal Cliff. While we will discuss financing college education more in-depth at another time, it is critical that a plan to pay for college be put in place as early in the game as possible. [By "early" we mean right out of the womb!] That said, it's never too late to start saving -- and keep saving -- for college. For starters, think 529 Plan!

11. Get Involved and Stay Involved! Nothing speaks of a student's character like involvement in the community. Nothing. And saying, "woulda, shoulda, coulda" in your senior year just doesn't cut it! Yes, you may be active on the playing field, but there's so much more to the game of life than Lacrosse and Track. Volunteer. Roll up your sleeves. No such thing as "once and done." Make a commitment to a single activity that in some way improves your community. It will be so much more than a resume builder (which is another topic for another post). 

12. Give Some Thought to Your Personal Statement. The "Topic of Your Choice" made a return in the 2017-18 version of Common App, and continues to be a crowd favorite. The 2022-23 Common App Essay prompts added some new flavor, hoping to bring some positivity to what has been a rather dismal time in college life. You should be thinking about -- if not putting pen to paper (paper?) the essay, creating a brief outline, and developing a theme that -- within the context of the stated topics and the confines of 650 words -- will tell college admissions who you are and what you will bring to campus, other than those boxer shorts and that 72" HDTV. Keep it simple. Write about what you know (YOU!) and what you are passionate about. And don't stress out. It's only an essay! 

13. Hone A Unique Talent, Skill or Interest. You never know when a college may be in desperate need of a bassoon player, baton twirler, or robotics whiz. Then, too, there may be a scholarship in there for you -- sometimes even a full ride. If you've got it, flaunt it!

14. Speak With An Independent College Planning Counselor. [Hey. If we don't toot our own horn, who will? :-)] Back in the day, when words like "competitive" and "selective" were not in the college admissions vernacular, you could go down that long, if not sometimes lonely road to college admissions alone. No Sherpa Guide was necessary. Today, having a college counselor -- your own personal guru who knows the detours, side roads and rock falls of the application and admissions process, is no longer a luxury. And who better than yours truly, The College Whisperer to personally guide you through the jungle of college applications and financial aid mazes? 

So, what are you waiting for, you high school juniors/sophs (and parents thereof)? College is closer than it appears in the rear view mirror. Let's get started! 

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!
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