Juniors – 8 Tips to Jumpstart Your Year

Dear Juniors,

This year can be quite busy – it’s an important one for your future too, if you plan to attend college. I want to share a few tips to help you start off on the right foot:

  1. Work harder at school this year. Your junior year grades will be what colleges see as you apply next fall. You can still have fun, of course, but doing your best this year really matters.
  2. Participate in class even if it doesn’t come naturally. Come this spring you will be advised to ask two academic teachers to write your college recommendation letters. Those letters will be much more personal and favorable if your teacher has gotten to know you through your contributions to class discussions. Speaking up in class will get easier as you practice, and you will need this skill in college and in the workplace.
  3. Stay after school for extra help or to attend review sessions before a quiz or test. This will almost always make you better prepared. And, again, it will give your teacher a chance to get to know you and your work ethic.
  4. Work on your study skills, time management, and overall organization. You will need to be proficient in these areas to be a successful student in high school and college. If these areas are difficult, ask your parent to help you find some support, either at school or by hiring an academic coach.
  5. Make sure you are involved in some activities outside of class.  When it comes time to write your essays and participate in campus interviews, you’ll want to be able to point to things you have done in addition to your academics. Volunteering, part-time jobs, clubs, sports, the arts, etc., are all valuable in this way. Plus, they can be fun and help you realize your strengths and interests.
  6. Plan to take the PSAT when your school offers it in October. Arrange to also take a practice ACT and compare the results. Pick one and then decide on your test prep plan. (If you receive accommodations for school testing, talk to school counselors to make sure you have them for these tests too.)
  7. Be vigilant about your presence on Social Media. Schools definitely have access to this and yes, scholarships and even acceptances have been rescinded based on what they have seen on social channels. In short, if you wouldn’t want your grandmother or a future employer to see it, don’t put it out there!  
  8. Plan to visit some college campuses this fall to do some window shopping. Do your best to visit local schools of different sizes and locations (city vs suburban/rural). It is best to see schools that are realistic for you to attend so that you don’t fall in love with a school that is not an option for you.

All my best for a great junior year!

And Away They Go!

As we bid farewell to summer, many of us are also saying goodbye to our college-aged children. It is certainly bittersweet, as some sadness is invariably mixed in with the nervousness and excitement around the new adventure that awaits them (and us!).

Here then, are a few things to keep in mind, especially for those sending a child off to college for the first time:

  1. There is bound to be some grumpiness or mood swings as your child realizes they are really leaving home and their friends (soon).
  2. Do not save all the things you want to pass along until the day you bring them to campus – none of it will register.
  3. There will now be many things out of your control. You’ll need to get used to that.
  4. You are now in more of a “consultant role,” as opposed to being on board to solve every problem. Practice saying, “I’m sorry to hear that, what do you plan to do about it?” Still, be on the lookout and get involved if your child sounds depressed or overly anxious on an ongoing basis.
  5. It is normal for your child to call you when they are homesick, or physically sick. They tend not to call as much when things are going well.
  6. Encourage patience as it can take quite a while to settle in academically and socially. Your child will not feel as comfortable at school as they did at home, even after a few weeks. They need to expect to feel uncomfortable as they get settled.
  7. Remind your child that the best time to reach out and make friends is during the first weeks of school when others are also looking for connections. Encourage them to join an activity. They should not stay hidden in the dorm room!
  8. Regarding the previous suggestion, make sure your student knows that the most common time for students to be sexually assaulted is in the first few weeks of freshman year. It’s important to set up a buddy system with friends.
  9. Remind students that buying or selling prescription medication is against the law and can get them kicked off campus. Students taking prescribed meds may want to use a small safe.
  10. Talk to your child about using the academic support services right from the beginning – transition to college workshops, tutoring as needed, writing center, etc. You are paying for these as part of tuition and they really do help.
  11. Time management is often a problem due to all the hours outside of class where students need manage their time. Encourage them to treat 9am to 5pm as the work day, and to be fully productive during those hours.
  12. Encourage your child to find a few adults / older students on campus that they can turn to for advice and support when things are not going well. (professor, advisor, club leader, coach, RA, peer mentor, etc).

Ready?  Here we go. I wish you and your student all the best for a smooth and successful transition this fall!


What’s New in Applying to College

This year’s college application process includes two, new platforms.  These are both optional, but worth considering depending on your student and the schools to which he or she may apply.

The Coalition Application

Introduced last year, this application platform allows students to search for and apply to multiple schools – provided the school are members (49 members schools now; expected to expand to 135 schools soon). It is an alternative to the Common App, and very few schools will require its use exclusively.


  • Locker. Allows students to easily store and retrieve any materials from their high school years that they want to save for their applications.
  • Collaboration. Students can invite a mentor or counselor to view and comment on their locker contents and/or application.

Go here for a list of member schools.

ZeeMee platform

The ZeeMee platform lets students submit images and video as part of their application. For schools that accept ZeeMee, it may take the place of a written activity resume entirely.
ZeeMee started with a few schools last year with more coming online for the coming season. (Note that this platform is optional – not all schools will look at your work, even if you send the link.)

To look at examples and details on this option, visit the website above and register for a free account.

The typical ZeeMee submission includes three parts (not everyone includes all three):

  1. Meet Me: Film a short video introduction of who you are, what you are passionate about and what you are looking for in a school. It’s best to keep this below one minute (two minutes tops).  And – very important – these should not be professionally filmed!
  2. My Story: Include images, videos and documents that detail your history in a visual manner. You can also supply a link to a website highlighting your work in art, photography, music, game design, film, etc.
  3. My Activities: Supply images, videos, and documents to show what you have accomplished. Best to focus on three to five activities.

For a list of current ZeeMee partners, click here.

As with most things in the 21st century, the college application process and associated tools continue to evolve. It’s hard to tell how fast these new platforms and others will gain widespread acceptance, but it’s nice to see more choice for our students in how they share their accomplishments and personal stories.