What to prioritize as the semester ends and be stronger for it in the college admission process

Now can seem like a pretty busy time as you finish out your semester and cram. AP Exams, setting up summer plans, wrapping up assignments and, oh ya, all of your existing extracurricular commitments. If you’re a Junior you are well underway, or at least making plans to take an SAT or ACT and have college apps looming in the back of your mind. This may also be a continuous dinner table conversation as a constant reminder that college admission season is coming sooner than you thought. If you are a Sophomore, maybe you are thinking of how you can ramp up your extracurricular activities and finalize class decisions for your Junior year schedule. Either way, it’s unarguably crunch time and I know we are all feeling it. 

So yes, get your prom-posal out of the way, hang with friends and attend school events, BUT ALSO check out the following easy ways to prioritize what ultimately will have a BIG impact on your college application and an admission decision.



  • Solidify your grades. Grades in your college prep curriculum (really any core academic, elective course other than PE or a teacher’s assistant) are one of the biggest factors in an admission decision. So while you may be cramming for the SAT or beginning your college research, remember that it pays to do well on your courses. So any border-line grades you have, final projects to complete, exams to prep for, prioritize your study habits and manage your time well. Ask teachers, friends, mentors for help, set breaks and ask for some quiet time at home as you tackle what you can to get strong final grades.


  • Reflect on your academics. How was your schedule this past year? Did you take too many advanced/AP/Honors coursework? Could you add some rigor? You are looking for the sweet spot between challenging yourself, but also allowing for support. Consider your areas of strength, your past performance, how you managed your time, etc. Course rigor and the classes you choose are also a big consideration in an admission decision. Choose wisely, don’t bite off more than you can chew, but don’t take the easy route either. 
  • Reflect on your extracurricular commitments. A strong college application is one that is an authentic representation of who you are as a person, your interests, strengths and an indicator of what you might accomplish on a college campus. So showing that in your athletics, club involvement, community service, side-projects, etc. is really important. But it’s also important that it is full of impact, joy and meaning to you! Take a look at how you spent your time out of the classroom and ask yourself, is this important to me? Could I see myself taking a larger role and creating more impact within the activity? If I don’t want to continue this next year, what could I replace it with or spend more time on other more meaningful existing activities? 

Plan for summer

  • Academics. Do you need to make up a class? Or want to take a concurrent enrollment community college class? Do you want to have an academic experience on a college campus? Do some research and find an option that suites you best.
  • Experiences. Internships, summer camps, a college immersion program, summer programs. Experiences can happen in all shapes and sizes. Start with your interests/strengths and start researching options within your area or within reach. Take a look at our summer page for more examples HERE.

Break the college admission process into manageable pieces

  • I’m all about setting goals and smaller tasks that keep you on track for college and WAY less stressed. An example looks like this:
    • Rising Seniors: June-July, research colleges and build a balanced college list of where I’d like to apply (add in important information such as dates/deadlines/reasons why I like it). July-August, write drafts and re-write college essays.
    • Rising Juniors: June-July, build a resume in Naviance, keep a log of my summer activities. Visit a college fair and start learning about college options.
  • Cancel out the noise of college talk that is unnecessary or negative and focus on what’s right and appropriate for YOU.


Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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