Much of the conversation in the media around the impact of COVID-19 on college admissions and high school students has, understandably, been focused on seniors and juniors. However, the end of the school year is always a great time for freshmen and sophomores to think about what’s to come in the college process, and that remains true even in this time of uncertainty. See below for our suggestions on what these students can do to get ahead in the coming months and beyond.
You’re gearing up for junior year, a critical time in the college admissions process, and so are likely starting to engage with that process in some deeper and more meaningful ways. Our advice to you as you navigate this time: keep building on your strengths!
- When you finalize course selection for junior year, try to find that balance between rigor and potential for success. Junior year is when colleges really want to see you hitting your stride as a student, which means both continuing to do well in your courses and taking on more challenging coursework when it’s appropriate. Balance is key!
- At the end of the school year or early summer, take SAT and ACT diagnostics; discuss the strategy and timeline for your test prep plan. It can feel great to go into the summer knowing that you’ve chosen the test that’s the best fit for you and that you have a plan in place.
- You may have been preparing for SAT Subject Tests — Biology and Chemistry are popular options this year. If you want to go for it in August, great! If not, don’t worry; there will be more opportunities later in high school should you need these tests.
- Consider your extracurricular life. Hopefully, by now, you’re doing some things you really care about! How might you deepen your engagement with those things as you head into junior year? Are there opportunities for leadership or perhaps for connecting with your community in meaningful ways? Just as you take on more in the classroom as a junior, think about how you can challenge yourself personally outside of the classroom.
- Start to explore colleges using resources like the Fiske Guide to Colleges, niche.com, and colleges’ own websites. Right now, colleges are rolling out a lot of virtual content. Take advantage! As you embark on your junior year, you’re trying to get to the heart of an important question: What are you looking for in your college experience?
Don’t worry — you don’t need to be engaging in the same ways with the college search or SAT/ACT planning yet. However, there are some ways you can take this opportunity to reflect and look forward.
- Plan ahead: Make sure you’re setting yourself up for opportunities for appropriate advanced courses later in your high school career. The transition to high school isn’t always easy, and COVID-19-related interruptions may have exacerbated that to some degree. When you are making final decisions about course selection for next year, consider: in which courses did you succeed? Where might you benefit from extra help? Are you challenging yourself appropriately?
- Reflect on your interests and passions, and consider whether you’ve had the chance yet to pursue them. Many students try a little of everything during freshman year. What did you love? What didn’t you like as much? Give yourself permission to focus on the activities that are truly meaningful to you. During this time when traditional activities may not be able to take place, it’s okay if those things look a little different.
- The SAT Subject Tests are occasionally appropriate for freshmen, particularly Biology. Some students who may have planned for June may look to August — but if you don’t take one this year, don’t sweat it.
Rest assured that, with all of these things, colleges are going to know and understand the context of this time in your life. They will understand if an activity didn’t meet spring semester, or if your school went pass/fail, or if your summer internship didn’t happen and instead you took care of a younger sibling, or maybe took an online class. As always, it’s important to make choices that are authentic to who you are and allow you to thrive, and to keep building on that as you continue through high school.
If you’d like to take advantage of this time to think ahead about the college process, reach out to our college admissions team — we can help with individualized academic, extracurricular, and testing guidance. And be sure to check out our recent Thrive in 30 webinar on this topic, which you can watch on our webinar page.