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Surviving Junior Year

1. Keep Those Grades High

If you're a junior, you might be sick of hearing this truism uttered over and over. The reason it's called a truism, though, is that it's true. Your junior year grades will matter the most to college admissions committees. While colleges do look at the whole picture of your academic performance, they most highly value the junior year for several reasons: it's the most recent indication of what kind of student you are; it's their last chance to see your performance over the course of a whole year, and it's the time when many students take their most challenging course loads.

2. Focus Your Extracurricular Energies

Colleges want to know that in addition to being an excellent student, you're a well-rounded individual with something special to bring to their campus. Note: I said "something special," and not "they want to see a million different activities." Colleges want to attract specialists, people who are passionate about their extracurricular efforts.

3. Begin Your College Selection Process In Earnest

Begin reading about colleges to see which ones spark your interest. Talk to your parents about any of their expectations -- if you want to go to Stanford, but they don't want you to leave the Boston area, now is the time to find out and address the conflict.

4. Know What Schools You'll Apply To By The End Of Junior Year

Sit down with your guidance counselor, and again with your parents, and formulate a list of schools to which you'll apply. Dream big with colleges, but also be realistic. With your guidance counselor, make a list of dream (or "reach") schools, schools you'll probably get into, and schools you'll definitely get into.

5. Arrange To Visit Colleges To See If You're Interested In Applying If Possible

Once you have your list of places you'll apply to, try to get out and see them. You might end up eliminating one or more and need to replace them. You might fall in love with a brand new dream school.