Junior year is considered the most difficult year for most, as this is when students take the PSAT, SAT, and enroll in the most rigorous courses, but these are the least of their issues. As summer arrives so does college application season, the final obstacle of high school, a dreaded and stressful time of year. But as nerve-wracking as it is, there are many ways to reduce the stress and burden of college apps.
Before the end of the junior year, you should have some idea in your mind of what major you want to pursue. Keep in mind that your extracurriculars may be suited towards reflecting a different major. A trick that many high schoolers use every year is selecting a major that suits their extracurriculars to elevate their admission prospects then transferring once they are accepted. However, this trick does not work for public schools, and for certain programs within a larger private university, like the Wharton Business School at UPENN, are only available by direct admission.
Considering your major you should research to create a list of prospective universities. When creating your list it is important to consider the availability of your major at these schools. For example, business is not a very common undergraduate major and is only available at select schools like UPENN Wharton, University of Washington Foster, NYU Stern, and USC Marshall, to name a few. Next, you should consider how much you are willing to pay for college be that the steep prices of the Ivy Leagues or the state-subsidized prices of your local public universities. Afterward, it is important to ask questions about the culture of campus life. Does it suit you and your vibe? You can often find this information in student interviews or by directly contacting students at the school through social media, as weird as it may seem. Another more costly alternative is flying to visit the school, taking a tour, and asking questions to students in person. However, given the financial burden this places on families this should only be done for the schools you are considering your top choice as these will be your early application schools.
After you have drafted travel plans and compiled a list of schools you should look at the recommendation letters you might need from your junior year teachers and ask them before the summer begins as a courtesy and forewarning. Some teachers may restrict the number of recommendations they agree to write, either by first come first serve, or through an application process. It would be highly beneficial to have this sorted out before the summer begins.
Additionally, there are several ways to make last-minute additions to your application like applying to selective awards, like the Coca-Cola or Cards Against Humanity scholarships, or securing leadership in your extracurricular activities. Many programs are open only to rising seniors such as the Bank of America Leadership Conference, a competitive program that guarantees internships at companies for its attendees.
These are all ways to reduce the burden and workload during the summer so you can focus on writing your essays instead of pushing it to the handful of weeks before the deadline.