Applying to college is a complex process; choosing a college that will allow you to thrive and putting together an outstanding application takes time. This multi-faceted process involves several components, which can feel overwhelming at times. One of your best tools for staying calm and prepared is organization, including a thorough timeline. The following tips will help you to prepare for the second semester of your junior year:

    1. Academics

    First and foremost, keep up your grades. Your transcript is one of the most important parts of your college application. Study hard, contribute to class, ask for help when you need it, and make sure you understand the teacher's expectations. When selecting your senior year courses, take the most rigorous courses that you can reasonably do well in. Your first semester senior year classes will be listed on your application, and colleges really want to see that you are challenging yourself and growing as a student during high school.

    2. Tests

    This year, you will begin taking the SAT and other standardized tests. Some students take them as early as January, others wait until March or May. Give yourself enough time to retake the test before your applications are due when selecting a date. Pace yourself and study consistently for these exams, including taking full-length, timed practice tests to build up your stamina. The College Board website offers free practice exams for both SAT and SAT II Subject Tests.

    3. Extracurricular Activities

    This is a great time to begin working on your accomplishments doc, a document similar to a resume that outlines how you spend your time outside of class. Reflect on your strengths and consider how you can use the upcoming summer to build on them. Arrange for courses, jobs, internships and other activities for the summer starting now.

    4. College Research

    Set up a meeting with your guidance counselor to review your list of college interests, keeping an open mind and utilizing the resources at your counselor's disposal. If you are considering hiring an independent counselor, now is the time to make a first appointment. Plan some college visits to your top choices over Martin Luther King Jr. Day, February break, and spring break. Attend college fairs and information sessions for these schools as well, and get business cards for admissions officers to follow up with later.

    * Make an appointment with your guidance counselor to ensure that you are an official Junior and on track to graduate. If you have failed courses you may need to begin recovering credits in order to graduate with your cohort.