Applying to college is an enormous, complicated process, and as a junior it is easy to believe that you have enough time to do it later and postpone the nightmare that is college applications for later. But even though the Common App and other similar platforms open in August, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that when the time does come, you will be well-prepared to meet the challenge. One of the most important parts of the process is deciding where you want to go. Several factors go into considering this such as price, available programs, the ranking of those programs, location, fit or maybe even the sports team. The list is endless, but that is exactly why you should begin the process early. It is never too soon to start planning for your future, and while you might look upon the summer before your senior year as your last chance to have fun, the truth is that there will be lots of fun to be had away at college, and right now it is more important to focus on college searches.
1. You get an idea of what SAT/ACT range you have to target. The June SAT is one of the most popular times of the year to take the test. Knowing what the scope of your dream college is gives you a number to aspire towards or, in case you were disappointed by the results, a goal to work towards come the October SAT.
2. You get a chance to see what your application lacks in terms of what those schools are specifically looking for. If you are planning to be an Art major, perhaps your portfolio has fewer pieces than what the colleges require, and the summer gives you ample free time to work on that. Other resume-boosters such as summer jobs, job shadows and internships are other great experiences that you might not have time for once the school year begins.
3. You can visit the colleges to get a better feel for them. Fit is extremely subjective to every student and many schools have college tours and even fly-in programs. However, you may not always get time off from school to attend one, especially if they are at a distance that cannot be covered in one weekend.
4. It is the perfect chance to handle the monetary matters. Your parents will generally be getting their affairs together around the start of April (the beginning of the fiscal year), which is the perfect time to work on the FAFSA, especially if they are contributing toward your college fund, because the figures will be at the top of their heads.
5. If you have a special skill such as music or a sport, and even more so if you want to build on it and get a scholarship, demonstrating interest even before applying is a step in the right direction. A particularly stubborn coach might help you on your way into the college of your choice, especially if they belong to a Division I school.
While you may feel alone in the admissions process with none of your fellow peers joining you this early in the process, you will be glad you took up the challenge when it pays off in the long run.