What’s Next After High School?
Fall of junior year is a critical time for students to begin thinking about what they want to do after graduating high school.
This week, I spoke with my colleague Alice Lissarrague of Lissarrague College Guidance about what juniors should be doing right now to prepare for life after high school. Alice is a Certified Educational Planner who helps students and parents navigate college visits, college essays, the Common App, gap years, and alternatives to college.
Here is my interview with her.
Katrina: What are four things juniors should be doing in the fall to prepare for life after high school?
Work hard at school. A student's GPA is the most important element of the college application.
Devote real time to a few enjoyable extra-curricular activities. Colleges are not impressed by the student who is a member of 30 school clubs.
Take the PSAT in October.
Visit three to four local colleges and universities that vary in size and geographic location: from 2,000 to 20,000 students in rural, suburban, and urban settings. It's important to get a sense of what attending a small rural college might mean versus a large urban university. Try to visit when classes are in session.
Katrina: What advice do you give students about writing an excellent college essay?
Keep the essay prompt at the top of the page to remind you of the prompt you are responding to.
Keep the essay tight by sticking to your own story, not your grandmother's.
Always show rather than tell the reader how you feel or think.
Remember your essay might be read late at night, when the admissions counselor is tired. Write to keep your reader interested.
Have someone review your essay for content, grammar, and spelling.
Katrina: What if a student isn't interested in college. What options do they have?
If a student is not at all interested in college, I would advise checking out vocational training, which might include learning to become an electrician, dental hygienist, or even a doula. Another option would be to become an apprentice to a tradesperson, such as a carpenter. Some students take an entry-level job and then pursue part-time studies at a community college or save money to travel and explore the world before making further career decisions.
Katrina: How can students take the stress out of applying for college?
Start the fall of junior year by visiting a few schools in order to better articulate what kind of school might be the right fit.
Visit another 6–8 schools during the second semester, preferably when school is in session.
Create a list of schools that would not only be a good fit in terms of academic rigor, location, size, extra-curricular activities, and general vibe, but also affordability. It's really unfortunate when students are accepted to their dream school, but then cannot afford the high cost of tuition and room and board.
Take some time to prepare for any standardized tests and plan on taking the ACT or SAT twice during the second semester of junior year, with the hope of not taking any further tests during senior year.
Spend time engaged in extra-curricular activities that are enjoyable.
Get enough sleep, exercise, and eat properly.
If you feel you'd like additional support around college prep, I highly recommend Alice. She is knowledgeable, experienced, and cares a lot about the students she works with.
I can help students study for the reading and writing sections of the SAT and hone their college essays. If that interests you, please let me know.