Junior spring is usually a busy time for students engaging with the college process—but with college campuses closed, ACT and SAT exams postponed, classes moved online, and most extracurriculars on pause, what should high school juniors actually be doing? See below for our COVID-19-modified junior spring checklist:
- Prioritize your mental health and wellbeing. You are probably hearing this a lot, but we think it’s essential advice, so you’re going to hear it from us, too: take care of yourselves. We have never, as a world, faced something like this before. There is no roadmap, and every single person is having to figure things out day by day. This includes you! Please give yourself permission to do the things you need to do to decompress, connect with loved ones, and just be.
- Do your best with remote learning. We know that some of you are overwhelmed with work, while others find themselves with less to do than they thought. Some of you are still getting grades, and others have learned that their schools have moved to Pass / Fail for the remainder of the year. No matter what your circumstance, none of this is easy! Ultimately, this is where we recommend most of your focus be right now—after all, your academic profile will always be the heart of your college application. Now is the time to be proactive with your teachers, just like you would in school; to participate in any way you can in your virtual classrooms; to continue to ask for help if you need it. Your level of engagement during this time matters and ultimately, what’s most important is that you do your best with this new style of learning.
- Think about your teacher advocates. Teacher recommendations are going to matter more than ever this year, especially for those students whose schools moved to P/F for a quarter or for the rest of the year. Admissions officers will really rely on these narrative evaluations to understand who students are in the classroom. Students typically need two recommendations from junior year teachers in core subjects, and now is a great time to think about which of your teachers know you best and to ask them by the end of the semester so that they can use time in the summer to work on their letters if they’d like to.
- Make sure you have a great lineup of courses for next year. Senior fall grades are likely to matter a good deal this year, given the turmoil of the spring term. As your course selection is finalized, make sure you are taking on a course load that allows you to challenge yourself in your best subjects but will still enable you to succeed. This will look different for every student!
- Stay connected with your school’s college counselor. Spring term is typically the time when juniors have meetings with their schools counselors, and may be asked to submit “brag sheets” or other information in advance of these meetings. Be thoughtful with these assignments and engage with the resources at your school. Your school counselor is always an important advocate for you and that will be true more than ever this coming admissions cycle.
- Keep preparing for standardized tests, if you’re not done with testing. The June and July ACT will be offered in locations where it is possible to do So. The SAT will next be offered in August. While a number of schools have already announced they will be test optional this fall, relieving stress for some students, the vast majority have not yet announced any policy changes, and we want our students to have the most options possible come fall.
- Keep track of how you spend your time during quarantine. Colleges know that your sport team can’t meet, that the play you were in can’t happen, that Model UN conferences are canceled. Admissions officers at places like Tulane and Davidson have already talked about how they’ll be understanding but will be curious about how you were able to engage during this time, whether that’s helping your family (think: cooking, taking care of a younger sibling), picking up a new hobby, or finding ways to support your local community. Even if they do not contribute to your resume in a traditional way, all of these things matter a great deal, and may end up on your application (the Common App is considering creating a space to describe COVID-19 disruptions for all students)—so keep track of them!
- Attend the virtual tours and info sessions for colleges you would have visited. We know that nothing can fully replace the experience of being on a campus, but colleges are working hard to roll out online opportunities for prospective students, from virtual info sessions to opportunities to chat with current students. It’s important to engage with these where you can—especially at schools that track demonstrated interest! See our blog for more about college visits from home.
Extra Credit: Fill out the Common App! Many parents and students are wondering if they should use some of this quarantine time to get a head start on applications. We love that you are thinking about ways you could use this time! Our recommendation is to start by filling out the Common Application; students should be able to complete most of this, and the information will roll over when the Common App resets on August 1. Completing this can be a great way to check off something from your application to-do list. Note: do not complete any college-specific questions; this information will not roll over when the Common App resets in the summer.
And if you need support with any of the above, from choosing your senior year classes to figuring out the right test prep plan to filling out the Common App, we can help!