Senior Offers College Advice To Juniors

Photo Credit/ Pixabay

Photo Credit/ Pixabay

Hannah Wavrek, Sports Editor

Junior year is filled with academics and extra-curriculars that keep everyone’s schedule full.  Balancing a social life, schoolwork, and free time, while staying healthy and happy is much harder than it seems.

For juniors, next school year will also mark the beginning of the long  process of choosing and applying to a college that will not only be home for four years, but lead to a career.

But, for now, the entire process begins with grades. Maintaining steady, high grades is crucial during this time.  This is because the first thing colleges typically look at once you apply is your grade point average. Keeping a high GPA and a positive upward trend of grades is a surefire way to help yourself in the college journey.

The other requirement needed to be successful is a good test score on the college admission tests. The test most commonly required in the midwest is the ACT test, but some competitive schools require the SAT or additional SAT subject tests.

The ACT has 4 subjects: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. The regular test is scored from 1-36, with 21 being the national average. Taking the test “with writing” has recently undergone a new change. The writing will now require an additional 40 minute writing test that requires students to use more analytical skills when writing an argumentative essay. They will now be given a writing prompt and a series of expert perspectives to use. This is scored on a scale of 2-12 by two graders, averaged, and then reported on a scale from 1-36 by combining your writing sub-score and your composite score.

The redesigned SAT has a Mathematics, Reading and Writing test. It is now scored from 400-1600.  The essay is optional and the SAT is said to be more user friendly than the previous SAT.

The College Board restructured the SAT as it was dropping in popularity compared to the ACT. The ACT measures how much you know based on what you have already learned, while the SAT was more of a test of ability, with questions mostly on topics and ideas you have yet to learn.

Also, ACT test scoring is more preferred than the SAT. On the SAT, points were taken away for wrong answers, making it a generally harder test. However, beginning in March 2016, there will not be a penalty for guessing.

There has always been discussion on taking the ACT versus the SAT. Some people do better on the SAT, while others prefer the ACT; it just depends on the student. It never hurts to take both, just in case.

Finally, you will need a strong extra-curricular base to complete your college profile. This includes everything from school clubs to sports to volunteering, and everything in between. It is even better if you have a leadership role in something, as this showcases your talents. Holding an after school or weekend job is also seen as a plus, because it shows accountability. You want to display yourself asa well-rounded person in addition to a being a strong student, so you will have the most options in the college search.

The most important thing to do when looking where to apply is to visit as many schools as you can. Getting the right or wrong “feel” from a school should be a major factor in your decision. Plus, visits also give you an idea about what some of the students are like.

Yes, it can be daunting to do this!  How do I decide where to apply? How do I sign up for a tour? These are all daunting tasks and it can seem confusing on where to start.

Luckily, there are tools available to help! For example, what helped me in picking where to tour and apply was a website called College Confidential. On the website, you make an account and plug in all the  information that is important in choosing a college. This includes the location of the school, how much of a Greek life you may want or not want, the approximate school size, and so much more! The site takes your information and comes up with a list of colleges that match your responses.

The college process begins with August’s release of the Common Application, which offers one application for over 600 different colleges. September is working on the personal essay, taking the ACT one last time, and then completing all the application paperwork. Juniors should spend time over the summer looking at schools, working on their college essay, and getting familiar with the college process. This way, once September rolls around, you won’t feel as much pressure.

It is daunting, yet satisfying once you commit to your school, scholarship awards, and future room-mate!

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