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Spring Semester Checklist for High School Juniors

While senior friends are hearing back from the colleges they applied to this fall, spring semester is when college planning should shift into high gear for juniors. There is a mountain of steps to take before you will be ready to submit admission applications; but, instead of stressing out and feeling overwhelmed, you need to break down the process into smaller, manageable pieces just as you have been taught to do when tackling a research paper assignment.

Step One – Build Your College List

To find the best fit college for you, follow this strategy:

  1. Write down or type into a spreadsheet your interests and preferences

  2. Uncover what qualities you want in a college

  3. Create a list of colleges that meet these criteria

  4. Figure out your chances of acceptance to each of these colleges, organizing by “high chance, “medium chance, “low chance”

  5. By the end of your junior year, trim your list down to 8-12 colleges

Step Two - Research the colleges on your list

I recommend my students follow this path:

  1. Register for virtual information sessions

  2. Take virtual tours of campus, or tour in person if possible

  3. Take virtual tours of residence halls, or tour in person when possible

  4. Attend college fairs and/or high school visits from Admission Reps of the colleges on your list

  5. Reach out to current students

  6. Read college’s mission statement

  7. Review required curriculum for your major

  8. Take detailed notes

Step Three - Continue to build relationships with your teachers

Be intentional. These are the teachers that you will want to ask for a letter of recommendation for your college application. It is nearly impossible to write an outstanding letter of recommendation for a student you do not know. Some of the areas that colleges are interested in learning from applicants’ teachers include:

  1. Does the student have an area of special talent which may have limited their time to participate in a broader range of activities?

  2. What evidence of character traits does the student have that imply a strong likelihood of their making a significant contribution to campus life?

  3. Have you seen evidence of significant academic achievement or the potential for academic achievement in college?

  4. Have you seen evidence of significant academic achievement or the potential for academic achievement in college despite extraordinary or compound disadvantage or learning difference, or physical disability or other unusual circumstances?

  5. Can you detail evidence of significant improvement in the academic record accompanied by one or both of the following: (1) reasons for the initial poor performance; and (2) sustained and in-depth participation in educational outreach programs, which demonstrate the applicant’s commitment to succeed academically within a challenging environment. (excerpted from UC Regents website “Policy on Augmented Review”)

Step Four - Plan for summer activities

The summer before senior year is the perfect time to demonstrate to Admissions Officers your commitment to your chosen field of study (major), get a paid job, secure an internship, or job shadow opportunity, or devote significant time to community service. Colleges expect you to be productive over the summer. Here are some tips:

  1. Research free, low-cost, and paid summer programs for high school students that align with the area of study/major you intend to pursue in college

  2. Take the recommended 5th year of English to be a competitive Cal Poly SLO applicant

  3. Take a free OpenCourseWare class through MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Tufts, and other major universities

  4. Find a long list of summer enrichment programs across the nation via TeenLife’s 2021 Guide to Summer Programs

Step Five - Testing

Prepare to take one standardized test and, if applicable, SAT Subject Tests during the months of February through May.


This blog post was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.

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Phone: (714) 319-0399


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