Welcome to the third segment of a 4-part Veritas Prep College Readiness Series! Each segment will cover what students can do to prepare for college. Today’s blog post will give 11th graders advice on what they can do now to make sure they have a stellar college application. Check out our high school freshman and sophomore readiness articles too!
Dear 11th Graders:
This is perhaps the most important year of your life in terms of college admissions. Juniors are faced with a myriad of standardized exams: PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP, SAT Subject exams, etc. All of those capital letters can certainly get intimidating. But there are few things you can do to make your junior year a little less painful.
(1) Prep for the SAT
If you’ve waited until now to start preparing for the SAT, that’s perfectly okay. But you can no longer procrastinate! The time is now to crack open that SAT book or better yet, enroll in a Veritas Prep SAT 2400 class. Many high school counselors advise students to wait until the end of 11th grade to take the SAT because this is when most juniors have traditionally completed Algebra II (the highest level of mathematics on the SAT). However, there is actually very little Algebra II on the SAT. In fact, many Veritas Prep SAT 2400 strategies can circumvent having to do any Algebra II at all on the SAT. In fact, I typically advise juniors to prepare for the SAT early so they can take the SAT in the first week of October. Because the PSAT is during the second week of October, you’ll be killing two birds with one stone. Remember, the PSAT is an easier version of the SAT, so you don’t need to do anything more than prepare for the SAT to be ready to take the PSAT.
(2) Focus More on SAT Subject Tests than AP Exams
Another myth touted by high school counselors across the country is that AP exam scores really matter in the college admissions process. But in reality, most colleges never ask you for your AP exam scores on college applications. Instead, they simply look at your high school transcript to see whether you were in AP classes, which indicates that you are a student who takes a challenging course load. So while your grades in AP classes may matter, your actual AP exam scores do not. Instead, many competitive colleges require that students submit their scores on at least two SAT Subject tests. Because most AP exams have a corresponding SAT Subject exam, I recommend juniors to take a couple of SAT Subject exams in May or June. Why during this time? Because it is the same time that you will be taking AP exams. So by studying for AP Biology, for example, why not take the SAT Biology Subject test (which is actually easier than the AP exam) as well? Again, kill two birds with one stone.
(3) Build Solid Teacher Relationships
Do you have a close relationship with a teacher at your school? If not, the time is now to build one. At the beginning of senior year, you are going to need to start asking teachers for letters of recommendations to send along with your college applications. If you do not have a teacher who really knows you, your accomplishments, and your story, this could be a problem. The best letters of recommendations are ones that describe the unique attributes of a student rather than a generic cookie-cutter template. In addition, try to gauge whether your teacher is a good writer. If he or she has trouble expressing thoughts on paper, that teacher may not be the one you want writing you a letter of recommendation.
(4) Jot Things Down
You’re going to be writing a lot of college and scholarship essays next year. Many of them will ask you about your values, your community service, your adversities, your accomplishments, and more. While it could be tough to think of everything about your life in one essay sitting, there is something very simple that you can do now to make life a lot easier later: jot things down. When you have an inspiring thought or cool event happen to you that you think could serve as the topic of an essay somewhere later down the line, write it down. You can jot it down in your phone, on a piece of paper, or even a napkin. By jotting inspiring ideas down, you’ll have a source of personal, interesting topics to choose from when you sit down next year to put together full-length essays for your college and scholarship applications.
Shaan Patel, who scored a perfect 2400 on the SAT, is the Director of SAT programs at Veritas Prep and author of McGraw-Hill’s bestselling book SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps.