Heading into your junior year of high school later this year? We asked Katie Szalda, Siena's Director of Admissions, to share her best advice for high school sophomores who are in the process of choosing classes and weighing their extracurricular options for the year ahead. Take note!
Continue with the core classes.
First and foremost, Katie stresses the importance of sticking with all the core classes—math, English, science, and history. It can be so tempting to opt out of pre-calc or chemistry or whatever subject isn't your strongest (or favorite), but it's crucial for your college applications and your knowledge in general to get them into your 11th grade schedule and see them through to completion.
Keep up with your foreign language.
Some high schools only require a couple years of a foreign language, and then give their students the option to keep going or stop enrolling in those courses. Our opinion: Continue, ne t'arrête pas! "We really like to see at least three years of a foreign language on high school transcripts," Katie says. It shows commitment to an important area of study, and lays a great foundation for your college years, whether or not you plan on majoring or minoring in a language.
If you aren't already enrolled in Honors or AP classes, but you think you're ready for a more rigorous curriculum, go for it. This is the time to start challenging yourself and showing admissions counselors that you want to take on more. But that being said, Katie advises, be sure you're challenging yourself "within your means." We'd much rather see you excel in regular college-level prep classes than score Cs or Ds in AP classes. And of course, whatever class you're in, engage. Raise your hand, lean in, and ask questions.
Take on electives.
Does your school offer a selection of interesting electives? Like, say, architecture, photography, graphic design, or data science? If you've got room in your schedule, by all means, pick what appeals to you. This is an awesome opportunity to explore existing interests or uncover new ones, and it could lead to a really great admissions essay or interview topic too.
It's okay to take Advantage of study hall.
Should your school counselor offer up an extra prep period or study hall for your schedule, don't feel guilty fitting it in! "You need this time to de-stress, free yourself from distractions, and do what they're designed to help you do: study," says Katie. In between your core courses, foreign language class, and electives, free periods like these give your mind a much-needed break to concentrate.
Consider repeating teachers.
As you map out your schedule, ask your counselor if any of your favorite teachers from freshman or sophomore year teach junior-level classes. If you were to have them again, there's a good chance engagement in their class will come easier to you, and on top of that, junior year is a great time to be thinking about who you might ask for letters of recommendation. If you already clicked with a teacher and have them again junior year, their letter could definitely become more meaningful.
In addition to classes...
Plan out your extracurricular activities too. Something we're big on in admissions is quality, not quantity. In other words, don't feel like you have to sign up for a million clubs and sports teams. Instead, figure out a way to get more invested in the one or two clubs you're already participating in. Can you become a student advisor? Take on a more leadership role? Take what you've learned and parlay it into a part-time internship or volunteer opportunity outside of school? Do it!
And while you're at it, Katie adds, plan some campus visits too. The sooner you start exploring potential colleges, the more time you'll have weighing your options.
Want more college advice? Here are the best college resources to use during the search and application process.