Are you a junior wondering how you are going to make the most out of your winter break? If you want to make sure you’re ready for future college applications, you can start prepping now! Read this blog for tips on what to do during winter break.
Figure out a Test Prep Calendar
You may have taken the PSAT and just received your score in December. Whether you did well, or not so well, you need to figure out what test you’ll take for colleges and when. Whether it’s the ACT, or the SAT, make a plan for how you’ll prep for it. We recommend you take your first test the Spring of your junior year (February or April for the ACT, March for the SAT). This is a great time to take your first test because you have enough experience to do well, but if things don’t go as planned you have plenty of time for re-takes.
Don’t go into the test cold to see how you’ll do. We always recommend prepping for your first test. Taking the time to prep will also most likely cut down the number of times you have to take the test, which can be an exhausting five to seven hours. We recommend prepping for about eight to ten weeks before the first test you take. Of course, the best schedule will always be the one that works for your needs. If you know that you’ll need to focus on your GPA spring semester, that’s okay too! You can also start prepping for a summer test as soon as school finishes.
Plan How to Develop Your Interests
You’re really coming into your own as a junior student. You’re taking more rigorous coursework, and you’ve done some activities. We want you to think about how you can actively develop your interests. One of the things you will be asked to do on your college application is talk about your interests. If you have no idea what those are yet, that’s okay! Keep in mind this doesn’t have to mean organized activities, but rather the way you spend your time.
They want you to show that you’re starting to explore what you want to do with your life, who you want to be, where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there. For example, maybe you wrote a short story that your teacher really liked in English class. So maybe you get into poetry a little bit, and now you can do some independent projects that reflect this. You can spend winter break looking for some poetry contests. Find three different contest deadlines, and submit your work! Whether or not you win these contests, you are working on developing your interests.
Even if you end up not wanting to pursue poetry after you put a lot of work in, you can still talk about that in your college essays and show that you are working to find what you want to do in the future. In order to tell your story to colleges, you need to figure out what your story is, and that means exploring your interests. Winter break is a great time to stop and think about how to do this.
Make Sure Your Activities are on Track
What kind of activities you need is going to vary depending on the school you’re applying to. Realistically ask yourself what tier of school you’re applying to. If you’re looking at top 250 schools, you just need to be involved in some way. This could mean developing your interests or joining some clubs at school. You’ll want to spend at least five hours a week doing something not academic. For international students, this may be more difficult, but in any case you should pursue something non-academic and try to get involved in some way.
If you’re applying to top 50 ranked schools, then we should see a little bit more intention with your activities. This involves excellence or leadership in some way. If you haven’t had a chance to show your excellence or be a leader, now is the time to take stock of your activities and step up in some way. An example of excellence may look like winning some races in varsity track. Leadership may look like running for office in one of the clubs you’re in.
If you’re aiming for a top 20 school, you should figure out your “wow” factor. Now is the time to figure out your edge and develop it. You can watch our videos on developing a wow factor to help you figure out your plan. Your junior year is a great time to get started on this, before you have to start writing essays next fall.
Think About Your Grades
Junior year is critical for your grades. If your grades are not going how you wish they were, now is the time to step back and reflect. Figure out how you can approach your grades, and if you need to make adjustments. This may look like watching videos on study skills, or reflecting on why you got that B- in history class.
If your finals are post-break make sure you’re ready for them! While you should definitely take some time to enjoy break and celebrate the holidays with family, don’t forget about your impending tests. Make sure you do what you need to do to help those grades get to where you want them. This may look like using old tests and quizzes to create new ones to test yourself. If your grades slipped at all earlier in the semester, make sure you know what your teacher’s expectations are.