Summer College Planning for Rising Juniors

Summer Activities

Choose your activities purposefully. Think about your interests and your passions. Are you on the rowing team? Maybe there’s a camp that could use you as a volunteer. Love to read and think you might pursue a degree in education? Maybe your church can help you find a tutoring job in center for needy kids. Consider a summer course at a nearby college. Most importantly, use this time to reflect on your interests and pursue them. Think quality over quantity and reassess your activities for the school year if necessary, taking on leadership roles in the areas you love and perhaps scaling back on the activities you don’t.

Begin Your Research

Get yourself a copy of the latest edition of Fiske Guide to Colleges. Keep it on your coffee table or kitchen island or any place you’re likely to leaf through it regularly. Visit college websites and spend some time exploring. Many schools have virtual tours. Take a look at the many online resources for college research as well.

Start to Think About College Visits

If you’re headed on summer vacation with your family and there’s an interesting college on the way, ask them to stop. While it’s ideal to visit colleges when school is in session, you’ll benefit from any and all visits (even if it’s just to say, “Yuk, I’d never go there.”).

Make a College Calendar

Devote a calendar solely for college planning. Ask your parents to set aside time now for visiting colleges during your junior school year, even if you don’t yet know what schools you’d like to see. Schedules fill up quickly for families who juggle multiple kids and their activities, so help your parents plan accordingly. Think about when you’ll take the SAT and ACT. How does the testing schedule fit in with your other activities?

Use Your Resources

Talk to your parents, relatives, older siblings and their friends about their college experience. What did they like and dislike? Why? Would they do anything differently if they could do it all over again?


The college planning process is best tackled one step at a time. It’s an exciting time in your life, but don’t forget to experience the present. Begin your college exploration, but enjoy your friends and family this summer as well!

Decision Time: What to do About the Dreaded College Deferral

 High school seniors whose paths have felt littered with pins and needles these past few months will be relieved to hear of their college admission fate. And while the tulips might not realize spring is on the horizon, college admission decisions are rolling in. Unfortunately, those decisions mimic the rest of the college admission process in that they are not always straightforward. If you hear from your first-choice college that you’ve been deferred or placed on their waitlist, the absolute WORST thing you can do is nothing.

If a college puts you on the waitlist, it means they like you and believe you qualify for admission but other applicants have been placed ahead of you. If you’ve been deferred, it generally means they need more information about you to make a decision. They might ask for senior year grades, more test scores or other updates to your qualifications. In either case, it’s essential to take action if the decision is from a school you really hope to attend.

1)    If you were sent a postcard asking if you wish to remain on the waitlist, send it back (maybe with a handwritten note)! You’d be surprised how many students never respond.

2)    Ask your school guidance counselor to reach out to the regional admissions representative for that school to express your interest in attending. He or she can ask what steps you can take to improve your chances of earning admission.

3)    If anything has changed in your credentials, let them know! If your winter team made it to the state finals, if you were named a captain for your spring sport, if you won a DECA award or an award for a photograph, tell your guidance counselor and the admissions office.

4)    Write a letter to the admissions office and your regional admissions representative (you can usually find this person on the admissions website) expressing your interest in attending the school. Tell them why they should admit you (politely of course, but make in convincing). And make the letter a good one. Show it to someone you trust to proofread.

5)    Did you have an alumni interview? If so, ask for this person’s help in making a case for you.

It’s true that some schools don’t end up taking students from the waitlist and many deferrals turn into denials, but the best way to improve your odds is to take action.

Diversity on Campus

You’re filling out a college fit questionnaire and come to the question: Is diversity on campus important to you? “Hmm,” you think as you check the box YES, “I’m really not sure.” Colleges undergo conscientious recruiting efforts to attract diverse students, reporting statistics on diversity as they do graduation rates and freshman class profiles. But for many high school students who’ve grown up in culturally homogeneous neighborhoods, diversity is an intangible. 

So why check that YES box? Why is diversity important anyway?

1. Developing as a culturally competent individual will improve your social skills and future ability to collaborate. Interaction with students from different backgrounds promotes intellectual sophistication and worldliness.

2. Diversity fosters innovation. Similar to how academic stimulation can prepare students to be creative thinkers and problem solvers, exposure to diverse perspectives allows you to view problems from multiple viewpoints when making decisions.

3. Diversity prepares students for the increasingly global workforce. The diverse population of future co-workers, bosses, clients or suppliers may not mimic the culturally similar environments in which some students were raised. College is the time to become familiar and comfortable interacting with diverse groups of people.

4. Exposure to diversity encourages greater sensitivity and appreciation of people with different backgrounds or opinions, spawning both self-awareness and the ability to view the world and others from a wider lens.

SAT vs. ACT - Which one is right for me?

ACT originally stood for American College Testing but shortened its name simply to ACT in the mid nineties to reflect the broader base of services they began to offer.

Here's a question you won't find on the SAT (as printed by Time Magazine at What does SAT stand for? A) Scholastic Aptitude Test. B) Scholastic Assessment Test. C) Slimy and Atrocious Torture. D) Nothing.

If your answer was A you were correct, but not anymore. Scholastic Aptitude Test was deemed controversial many years ago because critics felt it only measured aptitude for aptitude tests and was not a true measure of college preparedness.  If you answered C, well you too may be correct as a matter of opinion, but the correct answer is D.  Just like the ACT, the SAT stands for nothing.

At Midwest College Counseling we recommend high school juniors take both tests and then focus on the one they feel most comfortable with.  Here's what the Princeton Review has to say about the test differences.

ACT questions tend to be more straight forward.  ACT questions are often easier to understand on a first read. On the SAT, you may need to spend time figuring out what you're being asked before you can start solving the problem.  For example, here are sample questions from the SAT essay and the ACT writing test (their name of the essay): 

SAT: What is your view of the claim that something unsuccessful can still have some value?

ACT: In your view, should high schools become more tolerant of cheating?

The SAT has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary.  If you're an ardent wordsmith, you'll love the SAT.  If words aren't your thing, you may do better on the ACT.

The ACT has a Science section and SAT does not.  You don't need to know anything about amoebas or chemical reactions for the ACT Science section.  It is meant to test your reading and reasoning skills based upon a given set of facts.  But if you're a true science-phobe, the SAT might be a better fit.

The ACT tests more advanced math concepts.  In addition to basic arithmetic, algebra I and II, and geometry, the ACT tests your knowledge of trigonometry, too.  That said, the ACT Math section is not necessarily harder, since many students find the questions to be more straightforward than those on the SAT.

The ACT Writing Test is optional on test day, but required by many schools.  The 25-minute SAT essay is required and is factored into your writing. The 30 minute ACT writing test is optional.  If you choose to take it, it is not included in your composite score - schools will see it listed separately.  Many colleges require the writing section of the ACT, so be sure to check with the schools where you are applying before opting out.

The SAT is broken up into more sections. On the ACT, you tackle each content area (English, Math, Reading and Science) in one big chunk, with the optional writing test at the end.  On the SAT, the content areas (Critical Reading, Math and Writing) are broken up into 10 sections, with the required essay at the beginning.  You do a little math, a little writing, a little critical reading, a little more math, etc.  When choosing between the SAT and ACT, ask yourself if moving back and forth between content areas confuses you or keeps you energized.

The ACT is more of a "big picture" exam.  College admissions officers care about how you did on each section of the SAT.  On the ACT, they're most concerned with your composite score.  So if you're weak in one content area but strong in others, you could still end up with a very good ACT score and thus make a strong impression with the admissions committee. (The Princeton Review)

Many schools Superscore, or take the best individual score from each test sitting and combine them to make a brand new score for the SAT. While once uncommon, many schools are now starting to Superscore the ACT as well.  With regard to the ACT Writing Test, we recommend you take it if ANY of the schools to which you are applying require it.  Your test results without the Writing Test will be no good for those schools and you might be stuck taking the test more times than you planned. Check each school's admission site carefully to find out their policies.

A new version of the SAT is planned to be unveiled in the Spring of 2016. The College Board has announced the revamped test will include fewer arcane vocabulary words that students will likely never see again, a math section that is better aligned with high school curriculum, and an essay section that might be more analytical in nature. Midwest College Counseling will keep you posted on the new SAT.



Make the Most of College Visits

If you're applying to a school far away, you might only get one chance to visit before you make your final decision on which college to attend. Even if the school is close to home, you might not find the time to squeeze in an extra visit. Junior and senior years, after all, are busy times. Here are a few tips on maximizing the time you spend looking at colleges and on leaving an impression after you go home.

Plan to spend 3 hours to half a day at each school to allow enough time for an information session or meeting with admission officer and a campus tour. Having a friend on campus show you around is often a helpful way to view a campus.

Arrange your visits several weeks or more in advance by scheduling information sessions and tours online and arranging interviews if required or offered. Depending on your interests, include plans to sit in on a class, speak to a professor or coach, or eat in a dining hall.

If your plans change when you are visiting and you decide not to attend a tour or information session, check in with the admissions office to let them know you are there and visiting a different way. Some schools keep track of visits as demonstrated interest. If you decide to return to a school for a second visit, stop in the admission office to ask a question, pick up information or add yourself to their mailing list.

Email or mail a thank you note to those who were helpful on your visit. This could include an admission officer or professor you met with. In particular, if you had an interview, whether evaluative or informational, be sure to follow up with a thank you for the person’s time and mention some detail of the meeting that left an impression on you so the person will have something to remember you by.