College Planning for 2021

By IvyWise on Thursday, December 31, 2020

College Planning For Every Year of High School

Whether you’re in your first year of high school or getting ready for graduation, it’s important for students to stay consistent when it comes to college planning. To stay on track, we encourage students to set goals throughout their high school career that will ensure they meet every college preparation milestone. 

The new year can be a great opportunity to set new goals for your college preparation process. Keep reading for advice on setting college planning goals for 2021, straight from our college admissions counselors.

For High School Freshmen:

Some students may mistakenly feel like freshman year doesn’t count, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. College admissions officers review all four years of your high school performance, so it’s important to get started on the best note possible. Start by creating goals for your academic classes by reflecting on how your coursework is going and what you find most challenging. Write down a list of 3-5 goals for your studies and refer back to them throughout the spring semester.

In addition to academic goals, start finding ways to explore the fields that interest you most. Whether you enroll in a MOOC or launch your own website, don’t be afraid to get creative and try activities that have always interested you. Keep up with your independent reading as well by checking out this list of college-approved book picks

For High School Sophomores:

The midpoint of sophomore year is an exciting time to make significant progress towards your college application goals. It’s important that you feel challenged throughout your high school experience, so make sure you’re choosing advanced level classes that will encourage you to take your study skills to the next level. Additionally, sophomore year is an ideal time to begin your SAT or ACT preparation, so consider taking practice tests and working with an independent tutor if you haven’t already. While the test-optional movement had grown recently, especially in light of COVID-19, there’s no guarantee every school will be test-optional again once it comes time for you to apply, so have a plan ready.

Take a moment to check in with yourself about the extracurricular activities that you’re involved in. Reflect on the extracurricular activities that you’ve chosen and identify new opportunities, like mentorship and independent projects, to stay engaged and expand your expertise. Start creating a resume that outlines your interests, experiences, and any jobs or internships you currently have. You can add to this document over the new few years to prepare for college applications. 

For High School Juniors:

While junior year is certainly a busy time, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed by setting realistic goals and creating a strategy. Review your progress in both the courses you’re enrolled in and standardized test preparation and identify what concepts need your extra attention. Register for standardized exams if possible, and make sure you’re sticking to the study schedule that you’ve created. Again, there’s no guarantee every college on your list will be test-optional next year, so have a plan just in case.

In addition to prioritizing grades and test preparation, junior year is an excellent time for college research. Begin creating your balanced list of best-fit colleges by researching and touring schools, attending information sessions, and starting to picture yourself on various campuses. Whether you attend in-person tours or remote options, viewing multiple colleges is the best way to get a sense of exactly what you’re looking for. 

For High School Seniors:

If you’re still working on some outstanding college applications, make sure to prioritize meeting every deadline right away. Once you’ve finished submitting your applications, give yourself time to reflect and recharge. While some seniors are tempted to disengage during their last semester of high school, it’s so important to continue staying on top of your studies. Review how you’re doing in each class, as well as evaluating your extracurricular progress. Make the most of your senior year, keep an eye out for college decision announcements, and get excited for the opportunities coming your way. 

Effective college planning can reduce the stress associated with the admissions process and help students feel confident throughout every step of their journey. If you’re looking for personalized college planning tips, get in touch with our team of college admissions experts.

For a more detailed look at what students should be doing every year to prepare for college admissions, download our free College Planning Checklist!

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