Sophomore & Junior College Prep Checklist

Calling all 10th & 11th graders! Here is your check list and game plan for applying to college. With proper planning you will have acceptance letters that you will make you proud. ***

If you are in 11th grade, hopefully, you have visited a few schools and taken eitherChecklist the SAT or ACT. If not then register now for both the ACT  and SAT.

What to Know and Do

Your grades and course load are the most important measures when colleges evaluate your application. If you are falling behind, work hard, get good grades, and get tutoring (especially in math and science). It could save you $1000s of dollars if you win academic scholarships.

Don't be "Deer in headlights"! Be prepared.

Get a summer job. This can start as early as 14 years old. The more work experience you have, the more you impress the admissions departments. Note that during the school year a part-time job should not compete with your schoolwork.

Get involved – Your resume should show that you have participated in community service and have had some type of leadership role in any activity i.e.; sports, work, scouts, volunteering, or school club. Summer is the perfect time to focus on this.

The quality of your extracurriculars are more important than the quantity. Take your passion or interests and develop it in these three areas:

  • Leadership – You are Captain, Leader, or President of your “passion”.
  • Community Service – Share your talents, give back to the community.
  • Enjoyment – Do it, because you love it (music, sports, robotics). This is what makes you interesting!

Visit colleges – Go on official tours and attend information sessions. Every college visit will help you determine where you want to go. The more schools you visit, the better decision you will make.

Read extensively – or take summer community college classes in subjects that interest you. Take them for non-credit or if your high school allows for credit.

Take both SAT and ACT in January, February or March of junior year. Better to collect your test scores early rather than waiting for the May and June tests.

If applying to highly selective colleges  note that they require the “ACT with Writing” or SAT II Subject Tests. The advantage of ACT vs. SAT,  is that it does not have separate Subject Tests (SAT IIs). If you are submitting SATs, then you need to sit for additional SAT II Subjects tests. The Saturday test offerings are far and few, so it becomes quite complicated taking multiple test requirements.

If you will be submitting SAT scores (not ACT) then think about taking SAT Subject tests in both Sophomore & Junior year, when the material is fresh. Note that AP exams can sometimes substitute for SAT II in rare cases.

Once you have a test score benchmark, you’ll know if you need to study more and what types of schools are in your target. You can retake your preferred test (ACT or SAT) again in June. Do not wait until senior year.

Create a list of colleges. Go to ‘s “Super Match” or “College Search” to help you create your list that include two reaches, six likely s  and two safeties. You will input your GPA, SAT or ACT scores, desired geographic location, size of school, major, etc.

Create your resume. A resume is helpful for many reasons and it is easy to do. This will be helpful when completing college applications, for teachers who write your recommendations and for college and job interviews. Parents can help you with this task by collecting and organizing your information.

Recommendations! At the end of junior year, ask two teachers to write your college recommendations. Many teachers cap the amount of number of recommendations they will write, so ask early!

If your school uses Naviance become familiar with the college “Scattergrams”. The scattergram profiles college’s acceptance rates in that high school based on the students SAT scores and GPA.

***If you do not want to stress out about applying to college, you can postpone doing many of these tasks. However, this may mean that you end up going to less selective colleges, miss out on receiving merit awards, and miss deadlines for big flagship universities. Less selective colleges can be fabulous learning institutions and experiences and can be perfect for many students.  ***

Be a college geek and get it done! 


Junior Year and the SATs or ACTs

Juniors, when are you taking the SAT/ACT?

In the not so distant past, it was recommended to hold off  on taking the SATs or ACTs until  Spring of junior year. The strategy was to wait, learn more and give the brain & all its intellectual power more time to mature!

After lots of first hand experience, we suggest that you tackle the beast early and juniors should register for a Fall 2012 test date:

SAT – Oct 6, Nov 3, Dec 1  In 2013 – Jan 26, Mar 9, May 4, Jun 1

ACT – Sept 8, Oct 27, Dec 8   In 2013 – Feb 9, Apr 13, Jun 8

Why take it this fall vs. waiting to the spring? Although your high school will probably administer the PSATs in the fall, which are important to being considered for a National Merit Scholarship, it is good to learn what is your authentic score benchmark. Once you have your scores you now know how much more work and practice you might need. If you wait until spring of junior year to take the test, the time crunch and pressure to take and re-take (during prom season, no less) is enormous, especially if the scores are lower than what you had hoped. Furthermore, are you committed to SAT vs. ACT?  If you are unsure, then you need to register for both tests. Since adding another test to your schedule, means another Friday night of staying home (to rest), plus the actual Saturday morning exam, it is another reason why starting early in junior year of high school is a good idea.

Today’s high school student’s time is precious and if they are playing sports, finding a Saturday that is “free” to take or to re-take an exam is challenging. Thus lining up several dates for junior year will give a realistic picture of what schools are within reach. This might also motivate the student to work harder, or take a prep course before it’s too late.

The SAT’s questions are tricky but they can be learned with lots of practice!  Just for the fun of it, sign up for  the “Official SAT Question of the Day”, which you can register to receive by email at :)

Senior year does not have to be too late. We know of one senior student who was determined to increase his SAT scores after the October results were in. His dream university’s SAT average percentile was about 100 points higher than his scores were. He studied and practiced everyday for four weeks before the December exam and indeed his scores went up 100+ points and he did get into his dream school!