I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – junior year is so important because it is the start of the college admissions process. I want to help make this time less stressful to keep you from hurrying through this process at the last minute and avoid having your teen apply to colleges that are not a good fit for them.
Here are five tips as far as actions that your teen can be doing in the month of November.
What Your Teen Can Do in November
- Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
The first action that your teen can do this month is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. These will help ensure that junior year is a time that is intentional for them. Teens are just like adults in many ways, they want to have a sense of control and setting goals is a part of that. It helps them to be accountable in terms of their actions through junior year – that’s where we want to start.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. All of these components will help set your teen up for success and make sure that they have a sense of what they want to accomplish this year.
Goals can be related to academics, be centered around mental health and self-care or pertain to athletics. They should really take the time to reflect and think about these goals.
Teens should have 3 to 5 goals – any more than that and it becomes overwhelming. I always suggest that one of them is a personal goal. It doesn’t have to always be about school. Maybe there’s something they want to do within their community or there is a skill they want to develop. Make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
The second thing I would suggest is doing some type of self-assessment; there are a number of them out there. This helps teens develop their self awareness and know what they desire instead of everyone telling them what they should do or who they should be. It is important to give teens the tools that may help them with figuring some of that out. A great tool that I like to use is a personality assessment similar to Myers Briggs, but designed for teens. It’s good to understand your personality and how to determine the best fit for you based on that.
As students are starting to look ahead to which colleges should be on their list, one of the things I emphasize is that the list starts with the student; it doesn’t start with the college. They have to know who they are, what their desires are and their “why” behind wanting to go to certain colleges. The self-assessment can help with that.
- Career Interest Inventory
The third one is a career interest inventory, which is sometimes part of the self-assessments. The career interests inventory can help your teen to think about their major and what they may want to study when they’re in college.
I was talking to one student recently and they wanted to do a little bit of everything. Having many interests can be a great thing and some colleges support that love in terms of having all of their different interests. However, a career interest inventory can help with narrowing down all of your interests into a more concise list.
Also, maybe having all of those different interests just means that they are undecided and that’s okay. If your teen is undecided, then looking at colleges that value students who are undecided can be a good idea. A career interest inventory can help narrow it down a little bit to find colleges that are a good academic fit.
- Nurturing Teacher Relationships
The fourth thing juniors should be doing is nurturing teacher relationships, especially with core content teachers (English, math, science, social studies and foreign language). You may have a great relationship with your band teacher, and that’s alright, but usually recommendation letters have to come from core teachers. Also, it is a good idea to have teachers write their recommendation letters in junior year rather than scrambling around to handle this during senior year.
It is important to nurture these relationships in a sincere way. Think of a couple of teachers whose class you enjoy – it can even be a class that’s really challenging for you. Get to know that teacher through talking or setting a time to meet outside of class time, ask questions in class and engage in that way. One of the things that teachers will be rating students on in their recommendations is productive class discussion. Your participation in class can be a way to let your teacher get to know you and for you to really get to know that teacher.
I recommend that my students meet with one or two teachers each month during the school year, and that’s one way they can intentionally nurture those teacher relationships in a sincere way and develop the skills of how to self-advocate.
- Contributing in Junior Year
The fifth one is for your teen to consider how they’re contributing in junior year, whether in their community or at school. A student’s activity resume shouldn’t just be one hour here and a half hour there. They need to become an active participant, contributing in a meaningful way. If there’s a club on their activities resume but they are not contributing or participating in it, then they need to take it off of their resume. They should focus on those things that they enjoy doing and want to be committed to.
Some students say they need to do volunteer work just to put it on their resume. I remind them that that is not the reason to do volunteer work. Contributing to your community by giving back, helping animals, working with other students because they love tutoring – those are all great reasons. It’s not about checking a box or doing it for the sake of your resume.
Next year when they’re completing their applications, the colleges will see everything up through junior year. They don’t want to send in an activities resume that is not consistent and doesn’t show their commitment. It’s a waste of your teen’s time, and it’s a waste of the colleges’ time. They need to think about how they want to contribute this year and do it in a meaningful way.
Parents, each month there is something that your teen can be doing in an intentional way throughout junior year. Junior year is where it’s all happening and it’s going to be a short time before they’re going to be applying to colleges. Be sure to check out my roadmap for junior year! It’s a month by month guide of the things your teen can do to get in and also get money for college.