Junior Timeline – The 3 R’s

Lee Bierer of College Admissions Strategies recently wrote a blog for the Charlotte Observer on the 3 “R’s” that Juniors need to focus on in their college search. They are: Research, Resume & Recommendations.

Your students should spend their time determining if a college represents a good fit for them. Lee recommends families examine the “trifecta of fit.”

1. Academic Fit – It is critically important that a student identify colleges where they’ll be challenged but not overwhelmed. Does the school have a range of majors, concentrations and courses that interest them? Are the typical class sizes the kind that work for them? Are graduate students likely to be teaching many of their courses freshman year? These are factors that are measured annually by The Princeton Review (PR) in their college guidebook “PR Best 380 Colleges.” Is the academic atmosphere characterized as collaborative or competitive?

2. Social Fit – These questions relate to location, size of the town, accessibility to restaurants, shopping, culture, etc., climate, size of student population, role of athletics, dominance of greek life, extracurricular offerings, dining and housing options, study abroad and internship opportunities, etc. In essence, is this a place where they think they will feel at home? Is there enough to do to keep them engaged, but not too much to do that might make them feel overwhelmed?

3. Financial Fit – No one, not students and definitely not parents should be burdened with college debt. Openly discuss the realities of their family’s financial situation. How much have they saved? Research whether they are likely to qualify for need-based aid by completing the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) Calculator on the FAFSA website (www.fafsa.ed.gov). Make sure they put colleges on the list where they can expect to receive generous merit aid; schools where their test scores are in the top 25 percent of students they accepted in the previous year.

Resume: Juniors should be finalizing their resumes or brag sheets. Make sure they list how many hours per week and how many weeks per year they participate in each activity because most college applications ask for that information. Provide details on the contributions they made and their level of responsibility. Strengthen their resume with active verbs that are meaningful. Don’t forget about what they’ve done over each summer. Did they start a landscaping business, take a course, participate in a mission trip or other community service activity or complete an academic program at a university?

Recommendations: They should ask their teachers if they will be willing to write them a letter of recommendation in the fall of their senior year. It is important to “book” them now because the most popular teachers often put a cap on how many letters they will write and they don’t want to find themselves closed out.

Lee says they should also start thinking about testing and test prep, summer plans, refining the college list after visiting colleges over spring break and course selection for senior year.

Here is a link to the original post: Junior Timeline – The 3 R’s

You can see more of Lee’s blogs at College Admissions Strategies