February is the month of love (Valentine's Day), celebrating (Black History Month), becoming aware (Financial Aid Awareness Month) and discovering how long winter will last (Groundhog's Day) - the list goes on, but you get the idea. Amidst all of these important occasions, you need to continue to prepare for college throughout your second semester of junior year.
It can be easy to get distracted with all of the hustle and bustle of everything else. In order to help you stay focused this month, here's a list of items that should have your attention. Use this list to keep your college process on track this month:
1. Register and Create a Study Plan for Your Exams
The smartest exam option involves taking them the spring semester of junior year. By taking them earlier for the first time, you’ll give yourself more options (and time) to study and retake to improve your score.
If you wait until later to take them, that’s less time to focus, improve your score – plus, you’ll reenter the exams with confidence because you’ve already experienced them, removing part of the exam anxiety factor. You’re always going to be a little anxious about exams, and understandably so. But, with experience, these nerves can be calmed.
Consider the notion of taking any SAT Subject tests, also. If you’d like to take them, it’s time to register. Think about which subjects you’re currently taking that interest you or strong subjects you may want to pursue in college – these will likely be the subjects you should look into.
2. Letters of Recommendation
Now is the perfect time to talk to your teachers, coaches and any other significant adults in your life about letters of recommendation. As the school year winds down, they’re going to be swamped with these requests and you don’t want to become another student in their “to-do” pile.
By asking earlier, you will likely be happier with the result: a well-thought out, personalized letter. It also looks great that you’re planning ahead – just one more amazing quality they’ll be able to mention in their recommendation letter.
3. Plan College Visits
Spring break is right around the corner, and it’s a great time to take advantage of your time off from school to tour any potential colleges. Talk to your family about colleges you’d like to visit to see if they’re willing to help. If your parents aren’t able to over your spring break, remember that you can always hop on the bandwagon if friends are touring with their families!
4. Narrow Down Your College Choices
Through research, visiting colleges and speaking with prospective schools, you should begin to narrow down the list of schools you’d like to apply to as a senior. It’s time to look into your college choices and the aspects of each school you’d like to investigate further. Once you’ve determined the questions you have about each school, it’s time to find answers so you can either place a school on your list or nix it all together.
5. Touch Base with Your Guidance Counselor
From now until your high school graduation, it’s generally a good idea to touch base with your guidance counselor/college advisor at least once a semester (that’s the minimum). You want to ensure you’re on the right track for graduation, that they’re in the loop with your college search and that you’re doing everything properly to prepare for your exams and college process.
They’re also experts in the college search, so they can often shed light on your college choices and help you better prepare for college admissions.
6. Consider AP Courses
If you’d like to plan on taking AP courses during your senior year of high school, you’ll need to talk to your guidance counselor, AP coordinator and, of course, your family about the option. You’ll also want to discuss the available subjects, so you can plan to take your AP exams as soon as possible.
Remember, advanced placement courses have tons of advantages, like prepping you for your college career and, sometimes, earn you college credits before you even arrive.
7. Stick with the Scholarship Process
We couldn’t end this list without including a scholarship action item – it’s that important!
Remain diligent in both searching and applying for scholarships. Winning scholarships (regardless of amount) will impact how affordable college is, and once you’re applying to colleges, may change whether or not you can afford to attend certain schools.
Ensure you open your options by staying on top of your search. This includes applying for any and all scholarships you qualify for, from now until the end of your college (or educational) career.