Junior Guidance Newsletter - January, 2006

Juniors, jump-start your college planning

The last half of your junior year is here and that means it's time to spring into action. Ideally, you've already been thinking about college and investigating your choices, but now is the time for action. Just ask any senior. Time goes by very quickly.

Here are some things to do:

  • Continue to take challenging courses. When registering for your senior year, don't just sign up for easy courses, because that will hurt your chances for college admissions and you'll pay when you arrive at college and can't handle the coursework.
  • Begin to make a preliminary list of colleges you would like to investigate further. Surf the internet and use college resources in the counseling office or library.
  • Fill out a college comparison worksheet. You can download one at www.actstudent.org/college and search for junior year.
  • Make plans to visit colleges this spring when classes are in session.
  • Start or update an academic resume.
  • If you don't have a Social Security number, get one as soon as you can. You will need it for college applications. If you have one but don't know what it is, ask your parents.
  • Register for the ACT. You should be academically ready to take it by spring of this year. If not, plan to take it in the summer or fall, work hard in your courses, and check out free test questions at www.actstudent.org.
  • Check into applying to college online by looking on the web.

Five Reasons to Take Challenging Courses

  1. Colleges look at the high school courses you've taken and want to see that you weren't coasting through.
  2. Tough courses give you the knowledge and skills you need to do college work.
  3. Students who take challenging courses score higher on the ACT.
  4. You'll be less likely to need remedial courses in college, and you may be able to finish college sooner.
  5. You will have more options for college and a career.

ACT's list of high school course recommendations can serve as a guide for planning your choices (www.actstudent.org/college and search for plan courses). Be sure to check with the colleges and universities you're interested in to compare the requirements.

Taking the ACT - How Soon? How Often?

No one likes to take tests, so make sure that you're prepared when you do take your college entrance exam. The ACT measures your skills and knowledge in English, math, science, and reading. A good time to take it is the spring semester of your junior year. Advantages to testing your junior year are:

  • You've probably taken the courses that prepare you for the test, that is, if you are taking courses that prepare you for college.
  • You'll have your test scores and other information in time to plan your senior year. For example, you may decide to take an additional class in a subject in which your test score was low.
  • Colleges will know of your interests and have your scores in time to contact you during the summer before your senior year. Many colleges send students information about admission, scholarships, and special programs at this time.
  • You'll have more information about yourself and the schools you're interested in before your campus visits, making your visits more focused.
  • You'll have plenty of time to retake the test before applying to college if you feel scores don't accurately reflect your ability. ACT research shows that of the students who took the ACT a second time, 55 percent earned a higher composite score, 23 percent earned a lower score, and 22 percent stayed the same.

The decision to take the ACT more than once depends on your own situation. If you are happy with your scores, you don't need to take it again. But if you think you'll do better a second time because you will know what to expect or you've taken additional classes, then take it again. Talk it over with your parents and counselor if you are uncertain.

Test Date Reminder

The next nationwide ACT testing date is February 11, 2006. The regular registration deadline is January 6 and the late registration is January 20. The next national test date after that is April 8, 2006. Online registration and test date information is available at www.actstudent.org/regist/index.html. If you choose to register online, register early to avoid heavy web traffic and delays.

ACT's optional Writing Test was offered for the first time last February. Go to www.actstudent.org/writing/index.html to find out about the Writing Test, including what the colleges you're interested in have decided about requiring it.

While you're at the website, don't forget to take advantage of the test prep aids, including free sample test questions at www.actstudent.org/testprep/index.html. You can also find test day tips, a list of items to bring to the test, and details on what type of calculator you can use on the Math Test.

The online ACT Store also offers sample test booklets-real ACT tests from previous years. Your ACT registration packet, available from the guidance office, also includes a sample test. Try taking it and timing yourself to prepare for test day.

For all your questions about the ACT test, visit www.actstudent.org.