High School 2 College

January 29, 2012

What Juniors Should Be Doing This Winter

You know that this year really counts, so you’re working hard at keeping your grades up.  You’ve taken your PSATs.  You’ve met with your guidance counselor to discuss your plans for after high school.  You’ve even started to plan next year’s classes.

Is there anything else you ought to be doing right now to help get you into college?  Absolutely!


You know that test scores really count, so you took your PSATs .  Now what should you do with the information you got back?

Go to your guidance department and ask for your PSAT test booklet if it wasn’t mailed home to you.  Yes, you can see the questions online with the code number on the bottom of your score report, but you should get your actual booklet.  It’s interesting to know that on the second math question, you put B but the answer was A.  If you look online, you can get the actual question.  But if you look in your own test booklet, you can see how you set up the problem.  Was your multiplication at fault?  Did you use the wrong figures?  Was your equation faulty?  Take a look at the critical reading section.  Did you seem to get the answers down to two and you always seemed to pick the wrong one?  Were you clueless and shouldn’t have answered it?  Or did you mean B but blackened bubble C?

Sign up for spring tests right now.  Go to the College Board website to sign up for the SATs.  Most kids take two SATs their Junior year, so I suggest you sign up for March (which is often a bit harder but is great practice) and May.

You should also go to the ACT website to sign up for the spring ACTs.  They’re given in April and June.  I recommend the April test.  If you do well and want to try again, you can take the June test.  If  you do great, you might be able to skip SAT Subject tests (SATIIs).  Most schools accept ACTs instead of SAT Subject tests, so if you take the ACTs in April, you’ll know whether or not to prep for those Subject Tests in June.  And you must sign up for the ACT with writing.  If you want to use your ACTs instead of SATs to get into college (all colleges accept either SATs or ACTs – which ever you think shows you in a better light is fine), colleges want the ACTs with writing so you have an equivalent test to the SATs, which also have a writing section.

If you haven’t started preparing to take these tests, get going!   Sign up for word of the day email alerts.  Sign up for SAT Question of the Day email alerts.  Start taking practice tests.  Scrutinize the wrong answers to see if you can improve.  Time yourself when you take the practice tests.  Better yet, find a tutor to help you find your weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths.


Let’s back it up.  You want to be going to visit colleges once the weather turns nice.  You don’t want to wait until the fall.  You hope to apply “early action” to as many schools as possible, so you want to begin your applications over this summer.  Smart move.  So in order to apply to colleges over the summer, you have to have visited some this spring.  And in order to have visited some this spring, you have to tell your parents where you want to visit.  They’re much more likely to cooperate if you have a plan.  For example, you might say, “Mom, I want to take three trips.  I want to see the Pennsylvania/Delaware/Maryland schools in one trip, the Boston area schools in another trip, and the New York State schools to the west in a third trip.”  Mom’s bound to be impressed!

You probably want to take your first college trip mid-March when the threat of snow is passed.  No school looks great in the muck.  Wait until the weather clears.  You can visit schools until the first week in May, when most schools stop tours so the kids who actually attend college can concentrate on their finals before college lets out for the summer in mid-May.  That gives you about 10 weeks to visit schools.  That’s it.

How do you know which schools to visit?  Spend the winter on the computer.  Check out the schools your guidance counselor recommends.  (Don’t put too much stock in Naviance – the sample of kids is too small.  Did that student get into that great school because of his grades or because his parents went there or because he was on the lacrosse team?  No way to know from Naviance.)

The best free site to find and compare colleges is the Princeton Review website.  They keep changing it, but as of today, you get to the school finder by clicking on “Find Your College” under “Know It All School Search.”  Then, under each category in black on the left, you can refine your search until you get a good list of schools that might fit.

The best website that requires a fee is the U.S. News compass.  U.S. News is the group that puts out the college rankings, and for under $20 for a year’s subscription, you can find information that’s hard to find anywhere else.  Most websites can tell you if a school has a study abroad program, but U.S. News can tell you how many students at that school actually take advantage of that program.  Most websites can tell you about the sports program, but U.S. News can tell you how many students actually participate in, for example, club level sports.

You need to build a list of 20 – 30 schools so you have plenty to reject.  For each of those 20 – 30 schools, visit the school’s website.  See if you can find a video on the website.  Click on “send me more information” and enter your name and address.  Go to the website of the major you’re interested in at that school.  Go to the website of any clubs or sports you might be interested in.  Poke around.

Once you’re down to a list of 10 or more schools, group them geographically so you can visit them effectively.  You don’t have to go to every school on your list.  But you should see one large school and one small school, one urban school and one suburban school, and so on.  You’ll soon get a better feel for what type of college feels like home to you.

By the time you’re done with all of that, it will be spring — time to take your tests and visit schools.

Let the fun begin!

Wendy Segal



  1. I agree that juniors should be preparing for college. I wish that the internet was around when I was in school. There is so much valuable information that can be found on the web now. I think the kids should start preparing for SATs and start taking practice tests during their junior year.
    You can also take a virtual tour of just about any college or university on the internet right now. I used to have to send off for brochures and wait for them to come in the mail just to see what certain colleges looked like. You can never start planning too soon.


    Comment by Mark — January 31, 2012 @ 10:47 am | Reply

  2. Hi,I’m Ahmed from Bangladesh.I’m a USA citizen but we came back from USA a couple years ago.Now I’m a high school student over here.
    I want to get admission in college in USA at the end of 2012/at the beginning of 2013.I’m really confused about some stuff.The teachers here are not experts either.I’ll take the SAT Tests after my high school finals which are starting in April and will end in May.I’ll be free to take the SAT Tests from June hopefully.Now I’m desperate for every piece of info you have.


    Comment by ahmed315 — February 5, 2012 @ 1:45 pm | Reply

    • Hi, Ahmed. Do you mean that you’re the equivalent of a senior (this is your last year of high school)? If so, you won’t be able to enter college here in the spring as most application deadlines have passed. If you’re only a junior (graduating from high school in the spring of 2013), you should be taking the SATs as soon as possible. In the U.S., they’re given in March, May, and June of this year. Many students also take them again in the fall of their senior year. Most kids who will be graduating from high school in the spring of 2013 will be starting to work on their applications during this summer and completing them about October 2012 in preparation for entering college in September 2013. Does this help?


      Comment by highschool2college — February 5, 2012 @ 2:43 pm | Reply

  3. I wish I could get more reliable info over here in Bangladesh.But it seems like they have no idea about the SATs at all.It’s VERY SAD to tell you the truth.That’s why I’m here asking all these random annoying questions.
    I REALLY appreciate what you are doing for us students.


    Comment by ahmed315 — February 5, 2012 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

  4. Dear Wendy,
    I’m going to tell you everything about myself as a student so you can help me by providing the required info.I’ve been out of USA for such a long time (more than 9 years) that sometimes I don’t understand a lot of terms used in different fields of education.My high school/
    12th grade (HSC in Bangladesh) Finals will end before June.From June I’m goinh to start for the SAT studies.Let’s say I’m a total rookie who knows nothing about the SATs except that they are required for getting into a college


    Comment by ahmed315 — February 6, 2012 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

    • Not all colleges require the SATs,but most do. Start by taking a practice SAT online and let them score it for you. Now that you see the correct answers for questions you missed, can you figure out why the correct answers are correct? If not, perhaps your teachers can help you. You might also check http://www.khanacademy.org. They have explanatory videos on everything from physics to grammar. When you’ve practiced for a while, sign up for the SATs online at http://www.collegeboard.com. You can take the SATs as many times as you like, but it’s most common to take them 2 or 3 times.


      Comment by highschool2college — February 6, 2012 @ 2:28 pm | Reply

  5. I will do my best to get the best SAT scores I possibly CAN.In order to do that I need to know EVERYTHING from you.ONE BY ONE.I’m starting my very first SAT journey of my life from this June.I don’t know a THING about it since they don’t make us do the PSATs here in this stupid country.I’m SO embarassed.Can you tell me approximiately how long it might take me to master every single thing of the SATs if I start from June 2012?
    How many months MAXIMUM in the case of a dummy like ME?


    Comment by ahmed315 — February 6, 2012 @ 12:50 pm | Reply

    • It’s rare for students to get a perfect score. Mastering the SATs should mean achieving a score within the range of accepted scores by the colleges that interest you. Most American students who are ambitious start their studies around December of their penultimate year of high school, studying until March or May when they take their first SAT. Then they work on their weaknesses and retake the test that year. Some continue to work over the summer on and off until the fall of their last year in high school. If you have no other obligations, 6 – 8 months should be plenty.


      Comment by highschool2college — February 6, 2012 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

  6. Dear Wendy,
    Thank you for all your help.
    I’ll contact UConn like you said.I’ll ask them I’m going to be counted as an International or a Native American considering the fact that I’ve been in high school outside of USA.I’ll ask them if I require a TOEFL score too.For the time being I’ll be concentrating on my HSC Finals and from Mid May I’ll start the primary SAT studies.I’ll get serious from THEN.Wish me luck!See ya on facebook!


    Comment by ahmed315 — February 7, 2012 @ 12:39 am | Reply

  7. It’s difficult to finjd knowledgeable peolle on this topic, however, you sound
    like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    Comment by Jenna — June 9, 2015 @ 10:35 pm | Reply

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