Checklist to Keep Juniors on Task
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Checklist to Keep Juniors on Task

College Consultant Mark Fisher offers 11th graders goals for 2021.

The second semester of high school just started. For some, the past year has been a mixture of sitting in a classroom and in front of a screen at home. A smaller number were only physically present in the school building, but that seems to be the minority.

What will happen in the second part of the year? That depends on several factors. Nevertheless, high school juniors have a different world to encounter, regardless of the physical setting.

Below is a list of 10 tasks to tackle this new year. Some of the tasks you may have already started. That is great.

Dr. Mark Fisher

A common question you will hear from classmates, parents and others is: Where are you applying to college? In a few words, you might be able to answer that question, but how much knowledge and research goes into your reply? Are you willing to accept the challenge and make goals to delve into these tasks?

Here is your challenge:
1. Review colleges you have thought about even if you have not really done any research about the institution.
2. Will an admissions officer see rigorous courses on your transcript? That does not mean taking courses above your ability to do well.
3. Are there AP, IB or honors courses you have taken? Will you have taken an AP exam after completing the course?
4. Analyze your PSAT scores. You took it in previous years, but that does not matter. This is the only year that the PSAT counts for the National Merit Scholarship competition. The test also lets you know how you may stand on the SAT and which test areas need improvement.
5. Register for the SAT and ACT if you have not already done so. If you plan to take at least one SAT and ACT, on which exam did you do better? Which test are you more comfortable? Do not worry which exam a specific college prefers. All colleges accept both tests. But, this year, a fantastic number of colleges are “test optional.” Later, you will determine if your scores are like those of specific colleges. Then, determine if you are better off applying “test optional.” A host of possibilities exist to prep you for the tests. Test optional does not mean you can skip the tests altogether. There are still some scholarships and financial aid programs that continue to require SAT or ACT scores.
6. Meet with your school (guidance) counselor. Most likely, your counselor will be writing a recommendation to the colleges to which you apply. But you might say your counselor does not know you well. Then imagine what your recommendation might look like. It could be a repetition of your transcript and activities. Therefore, you better let your counselor know you. For example, what challenges have you met? What have you given to your school community? Have you had an impact in the classroom or in extra-curricular activities? What can you contribute to a college environment?
7. Colleges usually want one or two teacher recommendations. Who are you going to ask? Obviously, a teacher in whose class you did well or where you exceeded your own or the teacher’s expectations or a class in which you succeeded on a project.
8. Prepare a resume that can be appropriate to show your counselor, your teachers, and sometimes admissions. But the big advantage is taking information from your resume onto your college application. The resume should highlight not only your extra-curricular activities, but more important are your accomplishments. Do not forget your leadership positions in and out of school.
9. What colleges should you apply to in your senior year? There are a multitude of factors involved in this decision. Some factors, but not all, include: Competitiveness in admissions; size of the college; geographic location; extra-curricular activities; Jewish students on campus and Jewish life available, including Hillel and/or Chabad; academics including majors; various admission options and gap year programs; availability of need-based financial aid and merit aid; interaction with faculty; large classes or small classes; special programs if you learn differently; and available majors. This is just a sampling of the topics you need to research.
10. All of the factors above need to be researched. View college websites. Talk to present students and/or alumni. Plan college visits when available. If visits are not allowed due to COVID-19, many colleges have developed virtual tours and interviews. Talk with your counselor. Some students use an independent counselor. As time goes by, you will shorten that list as you do more research and thinking about the various schools you are considering.

Dr. Mark Fisher is a college and career consultant at Fisher Educational Consultants ( and a consultant for the College Planning Institute (

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