Welcome back from Thanksgiving, and Happy Holidays! Your student is probably starting to feel the unique pressure of junior year, as their first semester finals approach. (Ed: I remember spending Thanksgiving alternating between my AP US History textbook, AP Bio textbook, The Age of Innocence, and Camus’ L’’etranger. My mom coughed pointedly a lot. It was rough.) Junior spring is pretty much the worst time in all of high school. Between standardized tests, AP exams, and meetings and forms to start the college process, students describe junior spring as emotionally and even physically grueling.
Here are 7 key actions to remind your son or daughter about during the next 12 months—the ones they might forget, as they’re slammed with classes, AP, and state tests.
1. Make a plan to keep standardized tests in perspective.
Your son or daughter should take either the ACT or SAT this spring. For admissions purposes, the tests are interchangeable—although they play to different strengths. Your child should take a free practice test of each to find which is right for him or her. Then focus on that one test. The ACT and SAT have different strategies and different rhythms, so it’s best to focus on only one. Then take the test no more than twice. The test score frenzy is expensive, and, in my opinion, a poor use of your time. Study strategically, pick a date, and cross it off. March of junior year is great because it’s before AP exams. For free ACT and SAT strategy guides, check out www.revolutionprep.com, SparkNotes, and Kaplan.
2. Connect with teachers.
As students approach the second half of junior year, they should be thinking strategically about recommendations. Teachers they like are a good place to start—but not the only place. (Ed: I was a classroom teacher, and trust me—your child’s favorite teacher is a lot of students’ favorite.) For which teacher have they done original research and come up with original ideas? Did any of their teachers attend their top-choice colleges? How can they deepen their connections with their teachers, and do work that will be the foundation of excellent recommendation letters? One great question for trusted teachers is: “What do you consider my academic strengths, and where do you see opportunities for me to do better?”