I'm a Junior and it's February. Next step?

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Here are five things you can be doing to set yourself up for a beauty of a college application:

1. Getting the best grades in the toughest classes your school offers.

You probably know that your GPA is really important to colleges, but you may not know that colleges pay attention to how much you challenged yourself. I’m not saying you should definitely take six AP classes every year, but I am saying that colleges receive info detailing how many AP classes are offered at your school and how many of those you took. So think twice before dropping AP Psych.

Note: I’m often asked, “Should I take an AP class and get a B or take a regular or honors class and get an A?” My stock answer: “If you want to go to Stanford, take the AP class and get an A.” #nopressure

2. Signing up for test prep.

According to the 2012 NACAC State of College Admissions report, 89% of colleges require SAT/ACT scores, and 59% attribute considerable importance to them. You can choose to apply to test optional schools, but if you’re applying to a wide range of schools, I recommend taking your SAT or ACT once Junior year and once Senior year.

Show those standardized tests who's boss.

Show those standardized tests who's boss.

Another great read: What is Holistic Review?

3. Rocking out on your extracurriculars.

What does “rocking out” look like? Take a look at these two examples and tell me which student is rocking and which one ain’t:

A. Culinary Arts (August 2013-September 2013)

Prepared food for students at schoolLearned how to cook healthy meals

B. Editor-in-Chief of School Newspaper (August 2013-May 2014)

Chief adviser and manager of production, financial backing, written quality, and school-wide distribution of The VoiceTeach a class of over 45 students how to use InDesign (newspaper program)Teach a group of Managing Editors how to lead incoming students in article writing, and programming skillsFundraise (selling pizza, t-shirts) on campus to sustain school newspaperContact numerous advertising agencies to help sustain the paper

Note: Ask yourself: does my current resume demonstrate leadership? Initiative? Vision? I’m not saying you have to be president or editor-in-chief of everything, but there are always ways to demonstrate leadership qualities even if you can’t be president.


4. Applying to at least three summer programs.

Show colleges you didn’t spend your whole summer playing video games. Here is a list of great summer programs. Here is another. Since many have February and March deadlines, now is the time to apply. A summer job is also a good idea. Bonus points if that summer job relates to or helps you figure out what you want to study in college.

5. Creating your college list.

This includes visiting campuses. But where do you start? How do you find out about schools? And how many should you apply to? For more, check out How to Create an Great College List.

Click here if you’re ready to learn how to craft the perfect SAT essay.

Check out this article featuring five pitfalls to avoid while taking the SAT.

Another great read: College Interviews: Do They Really Matter? (Part 1 of 2)