The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

Guide to applying to college: For juniors

Applying to college doesn’t have to be stressful—try these tips
The door of our newsroom with the stickers of our seniors’ future schools

When people think of college and the application process, their minds go to seniors in their first semester. But this article isn’t for seniors. It’s for the juniors during fourth quarter. Summer is right around the corner, and finals are nearing. On top of all the stress, you are thrown into this confusing and time-consuming process without any idea of where to start. 

The process starts differently for everyone. Some students find themselves taking standardized tests like the SAT or ACT starting in October of their junior year. Others choose to wait till the spring. Even if you haven’t started yet, now is a great time to start. The more time you give yourself to test and improve your score, the more confidence you’ll have in your application. 

There is also the choice to go test-optional in this era of college admissions. Even with this option, you will likely be advised to take one of these tests at least once. Luckily, there is a state mandated SAT test for juniors in April every year. My advice? Take it; see how you do. If you don’t score well, it doesn’t matter for many schools, because it will not define your application. 

Taking the time to tour colleges over long weekends or spring break is also a very wise choice. Although not necessary, college tours will help you understand what you are looking for in a school, and you can narrow down your list before it is time to apply. The school attendance policy allows for students to take a day off to visit schools. Use that to your advantage. 

Many people will also give you advice, like “start your essay over the summer!” or ask questions like “what is your essay topic?”

Many people will also give you advice, like “start your essay over the summer!” or ask questions like “what is your essay topic? This is common and can get annoying. Regardless of how many times someone says these things, remind yourself that you can do this at your own pace. 

Another piece of advice I have is to keep your materials organized. When I started to research colleges, I kept all my information organized in a Google document, which helped me remember which programs and amenities different schools had. This really helped me narrow down my list and figure out which schools had deal breakers for me and which ones could be real options. 

When looking through websites for different schools, I recommend finding a way that works best for you to keep all your notes organized. You can also add to these notes when you go on tours. This way, in March of senior year, if you haven’t made a decision, you can recall information and narrow your decision down more easily. 

A gentle but also important reminder: your junior year grades matter. Finish the year strong. As easy as it seems, do not slack off. You may be stressed about where you might end up for college; however, that is quite literally a year away, and you should focus on the work you have to get done. Study for your AP test or final exams, finish writing those English essays, and turn your homework in on time. This will make sure those second-semester grades are strong, and strong grades help support your application. 

The application process is different for everyone. Once senior year starts and the Common Application (also known as Common App) opens for students, it feels like the timer starts. I am here to say you still have time. Yes, the time is shortened by a few months, and you have school work as well. This does not mean you have to rush your applications or stress about the upcoming deadlines. 

It is wise to have a start on your main essay and get an understanding of what other essays schools are requiring. Remember: optional is NOT optional. If you really want to get into a school, write the maximum required essays for a school. Whether that is none or six, write them all. You can also look and see if you can “reuse” some essays for two different schools and just alter them slightly to fit the essay prompts. 

Before all of this, finish the questions on the Common App for each specific school. These are tedious and time consuming, but once they are done, you just have to worry about essays. I personally finished these over a three day period in August and just worried about my essays for the fall. 

My last and probably most important advice for everyone entering the college process: make it fun. This is your future! It’s stressful at times, especially if you are unsure about what you want. That does not mean that writing essays about your life or doing research on what you could get out of school is also supposed to be stressful. “Undecided” majors are very common and may just help you get where you need to be. Have some fun picking out schools and thinking about what could come of the next four years after high school. This is one of the few things in life that is all about you. 

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