Juniors, you're up. I firmly believe that it's never too early to plan for college (and I'll delve into that in a future post) but right now it's time to start paying attention. Seniors are rounding the bend into decision-making land, and the focus will shift primarily to Juniors.
A little organization will go a long way right about now. The end of the school year is overwhelming, but it's important to set yourself up for next year, now, too. It's time to come up with a plan.
Let's talk about the SAT and ACT. Based on your PSAT or PLAN test results, you should have a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses. March 9 is the deadline to register for the April 14 ACT exam. May 4 is the deadline for the June 9 exam. For the SAT, you must register by April 6 (April 20 is the late registration deadline) to take the May 5 exam. You can find test prep materials for both of these tests online (ACT, SAT) much of it is available for free. If you know you want to take the SAT or ACT twice, I would suggest a spring/fall split. December can be too late in the game, depending on the application deadlines for the schools you will apply to.
What else can you do to prepare over the summer? If your family is going on vacation and there's a college nearby that you think you might be interested in, it might be worth swinging by for a visit. College campuses are pretty quiet in the summer, so keep that in mind if you're hoping to get a "feel" for campus life. However, it could be a great opportunity to talk to members of the admissions office, especially if the representative for your area is around. Call ahead and ask.
Summer is also a perfect time to start working on the essay. Don't worry so much about a specific question or topic, but focus on getting into the habit of this kind of creative writing. Buy a notebook or create a binder and starting jotting down ideas. Try to keep all of these ideas together though, or the notebook isn't worth much. Think about your experiences and some of the things that make you, you. What have you found rewarding? Challenging?
Read this post I wrote for more writing advice: Just how important is the essay?
Applying to college is a stressful process and my goal is always to minimize stress. The stress level is up to you though. That's why having a plan is so important and I'll emphasize it over and over again.