The spring semester means different things depending on where your student is in the high school progression. Freshmen are still exploring activities and learning to hold their own in difficult high school classes. Sophomores are rolling along in their AP class(es) and settling into their extracurricular focus. Seniors are breathing easier after completing the college application marathon and just need to keep their record strong while waiting on college acceptance decisions.
It is the juniors who are getting ready to enter the gauntlet.
Testing – Research confirms that the spring of the junior year is the time that kids will produce their strongest scores in the SAT and the ACT with writing. Not only do they need to be preparing for one of those tests (and in most cases I recommend only taking one, the SAT or the ACT), they need to be wrapping up their 2-3 SAT subject tests by June if they plan on applying to selective schools. Certainly, many schools do not require the additional testing load, but you need to have determined whether or not your student needs SAT subject tests by early in the Junior year and plan accordingly.
Activities – Students by this point need to have focused on a meaningful extracurricular or co-curricular activity that has brought depth to their life and to their profile.
Paperwork – By the junior spring, homeschooling parents should have started to put together the school documents that will be needed (resume, transcript, transcript legend, and school profile) that will be needed when the student starts filling out college applications midsummer.
That’s right. Midsummer. Many college applications will be up and available sometime in June or early August. The wise family will start to tackle these immediately and have them ready to go before the school load heats up in late fall.
Here are my reasons for suggesting that you get the lion’s share of the work out of the way in the summer.
1. Many families are surprised by early deadlines. Some scholarship deadlines at particular colleges can be as early as October. Early Action and Early Decision deadlines are normally November 1 or 15. The final deadline for University of California schools is November 30. We start hitting final deadlines for other schools December 15 and January 1. Over the years I have had numerous kids miss out on applying Early because they just were not ready. Some schools have rolling deadlines and your child needs to have their application there on the first day of this season as kids are accepted and given scholarship money on a first come/first serve basis.
2. The senior year is always grinding and many students have let grades slip (not a good plan for those headed to selective colleges) while they were burning the midnight oil writing essays.
3. Applications and essays get sloppy when you are rushed. While the application looks straightforward, it is really very time consuming to do it right, especially if you have the burden of proof for school documents as well. Multiple parents have told me the work on these is akin to giving birth. It really is that laborious and painful.
4. There are system failures. This past year was a nightmare with the new Common Application. We had uploading problems, crashes, slowdowns, incorrect information about completion showing on the screen, etc. Your internet can go down in a major power outage. In the final days leading up to a major deadline, thousands of students are submitting information and the upload time can slow to a snail’s pace.
5. There are human failures. Recommenders do not come through. Students break an arm or get very ill in the middle of it all. Parents can also get sick or overwhelmed. Life can fall apart. This past year at least 32% of the families I worked with privately had a major event happen during the last few weeks of the college application process – severe illness, death of a family member, financial crisis, etc.
6. Offices close over the holidays – college offices, public and private schools, PSP’s (where you seek recommenders and request transcripts), CollegeBoard, my office. If you think you’ll get things done over the holidays and something goes amiss, there is no one to answer your questions and get you over the hump. Do yourself a favor and plan the junior year carefully. It will result in a more harmonious home and a better college application season.
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