Parents of 11th-graders should continue to maintain a low profile about college during the first semester. Many students will be anxious because junior year is a very important year; they face high expectations and a heavier workload, and they know they must begin thinking about colleges later in the year. The first semester is an ideal time to focus heavily on academic studies while also engaging in extracurricular activities. This is also the time when juniors should really own their education, be able to articulate their learning strengths and weaknesses, and know how to be their own best advocates.
Juniors will have the opportunity to take a practice ACT in the fall and the PSAT (College Board’s official practice SAT) in October. Remember, the PSAT does not really "count." Colleges do not receive them. Though the official PSAT is also used for the National Merit Scholarship Competition, generally, students must score in the 99th percentile to qualify. Please remember, these are only practice tests and are never seen by colleges. We do not recommend doing any test prep for these tests.
In January, we kick off the start of the college program with a Junior College Night. This will lay out the college process and year ahead, and it will highlight some of the important elements for students and families. Both student and parents will receive a questionnaire to complete. The college counselors meet and discuss the college process both with the student individually, and then again as a family. In these meetings, we will discuss standardized testing, choosing an appropriate senior year schedule, teacher recommendations, and the process of identifying schools that are a good fit. We work closely with students and families, and we get to know each student well.
Throughout the spring, there will also be several college seminars for juniors. We will teach students how to utilize Naviance (the web-based organizational tool for the college process) and the Common Application. We will discuss the college search, the college tour, the college essay, interview and visiting techniques, teacher recommendations, and many other topics that will make the process fun and successful. We encourage families to tour colleges; spring break is a good time to do some visits! We also set the tone to encourage students to take ownership of their college process (parents, we hope you will also encourage and enable your child to take the lead as well, as they will be the ones to attend college on their own.)
In April, the Washington area independent schools sponsor a large college fair. More than 180 college and university representatives will be there to share information and talk with students. We also ask juniors to work on the Common Application and essay drafts over the summer, and we hold open office hours in August for students to work on their essays and applications directly with their counselor.