HOT TOPIC: What Should High School Juniors Do to Prepare for College?


With the recession still in full swing, many Americans find themselves out of work. And with the job outlook looking bleak, many of these unemployed people are deciding that it's a prime time to further their education. Gaining a college degree is a productive way to spend their time of unemployment, and such a degree will improve their job outlook in the future.
But potential students should realize that there are many paths to the college degree. Particularly when money is tight, it's important to find the most cost-efficient path to the college degree. While many people choose to attend community college in order to avoid the tuition rates of universities, they are overlooking an even more cost-efficient way to earn college credit. This little penny-pinching gem is known as The College Level Examination Program or CLEP.
CLEP allows a student to study independently for an exam and then take a college-level equivalency exam in order to earn college credit in that particular subject. Currently, CLEP offers 33 exams in subjects ranging from "College Composition" to "Introductory Business Law." With such a wide variety of subjects to choose from, the student should find it easy to earn CLEP credit in an area that aligns with his degree plan.
You may be wondering, "How is CLEP such a money-saver?" Well, CLEP exams cost only $72 ($77 as of July 1, 2010) each. Of course, this is substantially lower than the cost of tuition and fees in an equivalent college course. However, the savings don't stop there. For a typical college course, a student faces the expenditure of much more money on required textbooks. With CLEP, the student determines how and when she studies.
Some students prefer to pick up a used textbook, and study for the CLEP exam on their own. Other students favor a group CLEP study arrangement. Still others like the ease and convenience of CLEP test prep programs. Many of these test prep programs are now offered online. So, the student is able to take advantage of a convenient CLEP study program from the comfort of her home.
By David Angotti,

As sure as the sun will rise, students will start to get visions of lakes, barbecues, and sleeping in past noon as the weather gets warmer and the school year comes to a close. Seniors have already been through the admissions process and now juniors start their search for the school that's best for them. Andrew S., a junior from Renton, Wash., wants to know the best things to do over the summer to get a leg up in the college admissions race:

Q: As a junior looking to stay on top of my college admissions timeline, what are the most important things for me to be doing before senior year starts?

A: Good for you: Set your 'game plan' now!

Nancy Meislahn, dean of admissions and financial aid, Wesleyan University

Being organized in your communications with colleges will put—and keep—you on the right path. Decide now what E-mail address you will use for all your correspondence with colleges. Choose an address that will give colleges a good first impression (nothing cutesy or suggestive). And, commit to reading that E-mail regularly, at least weekly now and more frequently once you've made applications. Discuss with your family how to deal with college-related mail, where to put mail before you've sorted it, and how to file things for reference. Start a 'college calendar' with important test dates, deadlines and program invitations/open houses you might want to attend.

A: Position yourself for freshman success.

Eric Furda, dean of admissions, University of Pennsylvania

As a junior, the choices you make on your senior curriculum are important, not because of 'how it looks to colleges', rather, 'how will these courses prepare me for the expectations and realities of the college curriculum'. I have a great deal to say on this subject, but will keep my comments at a fairly high level:

1. In the United States you don't have a major in high school. Taking senior level courses in English, math, natural science, language, and a social science is essential. Of course there are exceptions, but this should be the rule.

2. For engineering students, take a second level of physics, even if you want to enter a field like bioengineering.

3. Taking calculus at the highest level available in line with your math background is the preferable senior year math selection for college level work.

A: Get a jump on testing.

Dr. Michele Hernandez, president and founder, and

The most important advice for juniors is to plan out testing early in the year so that you are done with the SAT or ACT by March at the latest and can save May and June for subject tests and AP's. Senior fall testing should only be a fall back, one more chance to push up a score, not the first time you're seeing a score. The reason: it's near impossible to target schools to visit unless you have a good grasp of where your SAT/ACT, subject tests, and AP scores fall. After testing, the main thing is to have a great junior year in terms of academic performance. Colleges want to see an upward grade trend as classes get progressively harder. Finally, be sure to go 'above and beyond' in your classes and develop relationships with your teachers and your guidance counselor so they will know you well enough to write a great teacher evaluation. These are extremely important in the process and can help applicants stand out in a hyper-competitive applicant pool.

A: Construct a roadmap for your future.

Don Fraser Jr., Director of Education and Training, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)

Develop a roadmap complete with month-by-month action items and goals related to the college application process (e.g., working on your essay, continuing in-depth research of a variety of postsecondary opportunities, and planning campus visits). Visiting multiple college campuses, for example, requires coordination and careful planning that will be more difficult to do once the school year starts. Admission offices are open in the summer and typically less busy, so pick up the phone and ask about their fall visits as well as any interesting events going on in the fall. That might help you select dates for your visit.

A: Plan, don't panic. Enjoy junior year.

Ralph Figueroa, director of college guidance, Albuquerque Academy

The college timeline seems so rushed today. That is artificial. Plan, but don't panic. Junior year is a great time to explore college options through websites, guidebooks, and most helpful of all—college visits. Visit colleges of various sizes and locations, the more, the better. Fill out visit cards even if you are on the mailing list; they keep track. Also, focus on doing the best you can academically, this year is critical to your application. Mostly, though, enjoy being a junior. The future is important, but don't lose sight of your high school years—you will miss them later.

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