Juniors – huzzah! You’re the soon to be reigning class of your high school! No doubt you’ve put in a ton of work these past three years and that home stretch is right around the corner. This summer is a fantastic opportunity to get mentally focused to make senior year your best yet. We’ve highlighted three key actions you can take to hit the ground running in the fall.
1. Make a college wish list
If you haven’t already, this summer is THE PERFECT time to reflect on your post-secondary goals and identify a list of colleges where you plan to apply in the fall. We’ve created a comprehensive guide to finding the best-fit colleges for you. I highly recommend you review that guide before embarking on your college discovery research.
When you log in to your RaiseMe account, you can navigate to the College dashboard to get detailed information on universities across the country. And guess what? We’ve added a new feature called the Recommendation Engine! ?. The recommendation engine will take information we’ve learned from you, like colleges you currently follow or your geographic location, and recommend schools we think you might find interesting. The recommendations will get smarter when you log more activities in your RaiseMe portfolio and when you do more searching on the College dashboard—so make sure you have a complete portfolio!
When you select “Search Colleges” you’ll be taken to a page that allows you to filter and sort along a wide range of categories to identify your highest priorities when finding a best fit school. This is covered in greater detail in the College Discovery Guide, but as a summary here, we want to make sure you consider the following factors when researching colleges:
- First year retention rate: this percentage will tell you how many students in the freshman class return to campus for their sophomore year. This statistic can give you a sense for the community created on campus and how supported students feel by the institution.
- 6 year graduation rate: this tells you the percent of students that earn a degree within 6 years of enrolling at the college. This statistic is important because college attendance is only worth your investment if you walk away with a degree. If a large population of students don’t graduate, that does not speak highly of the college’s support and advising team.
- Student to faculty ratio: This number tells you, on average, how many students would be in a class with you. You should consider this when thinking about how accessible the professors will be for feedback and mentorship.
Dedicate some time this summer to research colleges with the RaiseMe discovery feature and identify your top three criteria for a best fit school. An example of this could be: 1) Setting – I want to be in a small town, 2) Location – I want to go out-of-state, 3) Size – I want to go to a small school. Use the filters listed in the RaiseMe College page to determine your priorities and then create a list of 8-10 schools where you plan to apply.
2. Tour college campuses
Making a trip to a college campus is one of the best ways to determine if you want to apply to a school. You’ll be able to picture what your life could look like as a student and learn the ins and outs of student life.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re on a college campus:
- Can you see yourself here? How do you feel in this space?
- What would your daily commute look like? How spread apart are school buildings and recreational facilities? If it’s very spread out, how do most students get around?
- Where do students live? Do most stay on campus? If not, where do most students get housing and how far away is it from class buildings?
- What would your life look like outside of classes? What surrounds the campus?
- What is the makeup of this town/city? What are the major industries and could you see yourself getting a job here?
- What do students do for fun? What are the major clubs and organizations?
- What makes this school unique? What aspect of the college do they pride themselves on, and does this align with your interest?
While you’re on campus don’t be shy about asking questions of tour guides, admission staff, and folks who work for the university – their job is to answer your questions! The better sense you get for how your life would look at this school, the more certain you will be about what you’re looking for in campus life. If you have the opportunity to tour several college campuses, take some time to make a pros and cons list for each school. This will help you identify themes and better weigh your options.
3. Apply to outside scholarships
Using RaiseMe allows you to see how much money you can expect to be offered by each institution you follow, based on your academic and extracurricular achievements. In addition to the scholarships and grants a college is able to offer you, there are many private scholarships you can apply to cover even more of the cost. Your counselors will have lots of ideas for private scholarships where you stand a good chance of winning the award, so be sure to discuss that before you head off on summer break. When you search for scholarships online, be sure to consider identifiers that are unique to you: city, state, religion (if applicable), ethnicity, academic interest, affinity groups. All of these criteria and more could make you eligible for scholarships that are tailored to you.
With any downtime you have in the summer, you have a great opportunity to get a head start on finding and applying to scholarships for college. We recommend this for two reasons: 1) you will find that senior year gets very busy and it’ll be hard to carve out time to apply to scholarships during the school year. 2) The act of writing about yourself, your interests, and why you’re a great candidate is perfect preparation for your personal statement for college applications. The more practice you get telling your story and honing your voice, the easier it will be to prepare a great essay for your college applications.
Pro Tip: While the large scholarship opportunities that offer awards as big as $10,000 sound very attractive (because they are!) they are also highly competitive and often require extensive application processes. It can be MUCH easier to rack up large total earnings by going after smaller scholarship awards, where the amount is anywhere from $500 – $1,000. You have a better chance of winning many small awards, particularly if they have more specific criteria where you will stand out as a great candidate or if the applicant pool is likely to be pretty small. Doing your homework to find these more unique, local scholarship funds is well worth it, as you can earn significant money for putting in the time where your peers may not.
Class of 2019, you are so close to finishing your junior year! In addition to resting and spending quality time with friends and family, take these three steps to get a jump on your final year of high school:
- Use the RaiseMe College Discovery Guide to make your college wish list
- If you’re able, tour some college campuses and write down pros and cons to identify your top criteria for a best-fit school
- Apply to outside scholarships and use those essays as the backbone of your future personal statement for college applications
- Have the best time ever!!
When you are intentional with your summer vacation you’re setting a game plan for your future. Steer on, captain!
“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” – William Ernest Henley, from “Invictus”