Checklist for Juniors

Time is flying, and for juniors that means that the college admissions process is getting closer and closer. It's always good to check in and see if you're where you need to be. The New York Times Choice blog posted this calendar which lets juniors know if they're on track. Here are a few highlights:

  • Stay focused on your grades. Junior year is the last full year of grades that colleges will see, so it's important to finish the year on a high note.
  • Plan next year's classes and your standardized testing schedule. If you're leaning toward applying to any special programs, make sure that the classes you take in high school reflect your interests. Taking AP classes may be a great way to  demonstrate your strengths. Determine whether the colleges you'll be applying to require SAT IIs, and consider which test better suits you: the SAT or ACT.
  • Narrow down your college list. Continue to research and visit colleges in order to better pinpoint colleges that will be a good fit. Be sure to discuss your college list with your parents to make sure that you're all on the same page.
  • Choose your summer plans wisely. The summer before your senior year is an opportunity to dive into one of your passions, whatever that might be, and to ultimately allow colleges to better understand who you are. It can also provide an experience for a strong college essay. Create your College Essay Organizer account now to get an idea of what next year's essay questions will look like.
  • Relax and stay positive. If you're working on the above items, then you're ahead of the game. As long as you stay calm and focused, you may even enjoy the college admissions process.



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An Essay on Adversity

As juniors begin to turn their thoughts to the college application process looming in front of them, now is the time to start to generate ideas for a stand-out essay. There is no doubt that the essay has the power to set a student apart from the pack, and is often the most challenging part of applying to college.

To get your thoughts flowing in the right direction, we'll be posting a series of essays over the coming months on commonly asked essay questions. In the below essay, the student was responding to a question asking her to describe a personal challenge. She also used the same essay in modified form to address additional essay topics from other colleges on her list that asked about a life-changing experience, personal value,  and personal trait/individuality, among others:

I found out I had severe scoliosis when I was twelve, and suddenly, like my spine, my life became a twisted mess. I was told that if I didn’t wear a brace twenty-three hours a day for two full years, my spinal cord would shift and I would need surgery. In the beginning, I let my mother convince me it wouldn’t be that bad. However, my father, always the family realist, hid nothing in his reaction to the news: I was in for a horrible two years.

After two excruciatingly painful months, literally and metaphorically, I made a decision: I was not going to wear the brace. I was going to accept my physical fate, and work on being the Carly I knew I could be; whether I was standing straight or otherwise. I was well aware of the risk I was taking, but I also knew that I was prepared to assume responsibility for this choice.

As luck would have it, the curve in my spine did not get worse as I grew, though this was not something anyone could have predicted—a lucky twist in the tale, if you will. And though I was not left with a severely crooked spine, many questions remain: If I had worn my brace, would my back be straighter? Was I right to shun my brace, or was it stupid – a risky gamble and a mistake? I will never fully know the answers to these questions.

Resolution for me came through introspection and acceptance. I understand myself better as a result of this experience, as well as the world around me. I see that the cards I was dealt were not very bad in the grand scheme of things. Today, my scoliosis is rarely on my mind and I am at ease with myself once again. But I still have my brace. I keep it in the closet, because I never want to forget the experience. Once in a while, when trying to explain myself to a new friend, I pull it out. It never disappoints.

Start Working on Your College Essays this Summer

Alan Gelb is an author and educational consultant specializing on the college essay process.  He has written “Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Step” and “The Complete Student: Achieving Success in College and Beyond”

Alan Gelb offers some practical advice for juniors in this posting on the New York Times Choice blog. While juniors should be thinking about their college lists and beefing up their resumes with some non-academic, real-world experience this summer, they should also be taking advantage of some of their downtime to turn their attention to their college essays.

Gelb writes, “These less hurried months before the onslaught of a highly pressured fall offer the chance for students to think, reflect and connect with a writing topic that can then be developed into 500 words of polished prose.” We wholeheartedly agree, and his practical tips will definitely help your mind to slow down and get your creative juices flowing as you begin to discover and explore your essay topic.

You Are What You Tweet

Have you googled yourself lately?

If you are gearing up to begin your college application process, you definitely want to read Danny Westneat’s article in the Seattle Times. In this article, he discusses how he discovered an inspiring story of a student with a rough start in life, who defied all odds and made it to college, but that his perspective changed when he discovered the student's Twitter feed.

Without getting into the content of his posts, the point is clear. It’s normal for high school students to share their world with their friends, but with today’s internet culture, the consequences of those discussions and the photographical evidence that may be associated with them, are obviously much more far reaching and long term.

Westneat quotes a Harvard interviewer during a debate on the website Quora, who offers some guidance in this area: “Does a Facebook profile or a website prejudice me before I meet a candidate? Yes. Absolutely. If you care about your college career, one of the best things you can do is Google yourself, then pull anything off you wouldn't voluntarily show your parents' friends." Unfortunately, it can be what is not included in your college application that leaves the biggest impression.

Juniors Get Ready for the College Admissions Process

Juniors, are you ready?

With all this talk of seniors and the somewhat foggy state of mind that results from finally emerging from the lengthy, mysterious tunnel of the college admissions process, it’s easy to forget that there is a whole class of students (juniors that is) preparing to enter that long passageway. As this admissions season ebbs away, it is time to turn our attention to this next important group to walk the path.

While daunting, there are many steps you can take to make your upcoming journey relatively pain-free and fruitful, and many require only some simple planning ahead. While it may be tempting to put it all out of your mind till the fall, that would definitely be against your benefit.

By now, you’ve probably been studying for your SATs for some time. Keep this your priority since it will be an important factor in determining your college list. Here are some additional tips, offered by the College Board, to make sure you’re headed in the right direction:

  • Start to visit colleges choosing a variety of different types and sizes. You can begin with the schools in your area, and don’t worry about narrowing down your list until later.
  • While the SAT and SAT IIs are of primary importance, don’t overlook AP Exams which also require preparation.
  • Start meeting with your college counselor and thinking about what courses you want to take your senior year. Make sure to challenge yourself as much as possible.
  • Plan your summer, and make it as interesting as possible. A well chosen community service project or an internship in a field that you’re passionate about may be just what you need to round out your resume, and can become the seed for an amazing college essay.

The key is to start planning early and pace yourself. This will definitely help keep you from feeling overwhelmed when fall rolls around.

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College Essay Organizer For Juniors: Now With More Discounted Goodness

Nothing Is Inconceivable. Not even the ivies, baby.

Nothing Is Inconceivable. Not even Harvard.

CEO has taken a few proactive steps to help juniors take control of the college application process before it takes control of them. For purchases made before May 1, retail prices are being discounted 50%, just by using the promotional code 'junior'.

It's an exciting time for juniors who are beginning to wrap up what is probably the most difficult academic year they've had so far. Most can't wait to get it behind them and co-o-o-ast into that senior year of waking up late, leaving early, and doing a small version of nothing somewhere in between.

But hark, there waits a large pile of applications to be done before one can be stranded on the lawn of some weird frat house after homecoming, and the sooner you can get that pile organized and simplified, the sooner you can get the apps out the door and get yourself into the nine month vacation known as "I already turned those things in."

Have a look at the new juniors page and see why it's a great idea to get rolling on the things now, and see that by purchasing your account before the crush of work kicks in, you'll save money and put yourself ahead of the curve. Remember, with our new email notification system, you'll be updated as soon as your schools publish whatever changes they make to their application for the 2010-2011 season.

2011? Did I just write that?