5 Tools to Whip your College Process into Shape (aka, “How to Manage Junior Spring”)

Comments Off on 5 Tools to Whip your College Process into Shape (aka, “How to Manage Junior Spring”) 17 January 2014

Get into Shape

Face it: eleventh grade spring is the hardest part of the college admissions process. Between AP courses, SAT and ACT tests, plus all of your activities, it can be hard to get enough sleep, much less have fun. At Story To College we make the college process fun. Let’s work backwards.

Imagine two years from now. You will be in your second year of college—maybe you’ll be studying a new language, or beginning a semester abroad, or applying for summer internships (those are just a few of the stories we’ve heard from students who took Story To College courses in the last two years!).

So how do you get there from here? Over the next 12 months, Story To College will lead you through the college admissions process, step by step. We will give you all the tools you need to use the application process to learn important work and life lessons—like project management, priorities, communication and collaboration. In our webinars we’ll teach you how to use the tools, provide examples from real students, and answer your questions.

Here are the tricks we’ll teach on the first webinar:

Backwards Planning: 5 years from now you’ll have a job; two years from now you’ll be in college; next year your apps will all be in and you’ll be loving your senior spring courses and learning how to code (maybe).

  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?: Fill a page with words or draw a picture. Make it specific.
  • What have you already done that gets you there?
  • What are the biggest gaps? For example: you want to be an engineer, but you’ve never talked to an actual engineer about what they do. How can you remedy that?
  • What role does college play in that plan?
  • For you what does college “success” look like? Is there a type of college you want to attend? How much financial aid do you need? What else is absolutely essential for you in college?

Make a Master Schedule: You can download our organizer here. We’ll talk about this some more on the webinar.

Do Fewer Things and Do Them Better: Right now, make a list of everything you are doing. I mean all of it. Everything.

  • Go through and give everything a number
    • 1 = must do to get to and through college.
    • 2 = love to do (this includes friends, family, exercise, etc).
    • 3 = everything else.
  • Are all the 1’s really essential? If not, bump it to #3.
  • Is there anything in #2 you wish you were doing more of? Circle it. That absolutely stays on the list.
  • When you are planning your days, weeks, months to college–stress less about #1 by planning for it; make time for more of the #2; and ignore as much of #3 as possible.

Plan for Summer: Many selective colleges have a supplement question along the lines of “Describe your activities over the past two summers.” Why do they ask that? Because they want to know how you fill your time when you can fill it with anything. There’s no right or wrong answer. Colleges aren’t expecting you to take some fancy global service trip. But, think about it, when you can do anything, what do you choose to do? There’s a lot of that in college! Here’s a massive wiki of summer opportunities to get you thinking:


When I was in high school and reluctant to try new things, my friend Nancy would say, “GFI,” short for Go For It. GFI did not apply to predictable things—like trying out for cheerleading, which I flubbed miserably. A little slip of paper saying “GFI” in AP US History meant, “Go ahead, disagree with the teacher. She’s formidable, but you’re up to it. GFI pushed me in all sorts of surprising directions: taking Psychology and Economics courses at Penn State the summer after junior year; petitioning the school board for a homeroom where students who didn’t want to say the words “under God” wouldn’t have to say the Pledge of Allegiance (that detail tells you a lot about who I was in high school); and skipping school to get my hair cut short the week after my father died in eleventh grade. When you think of Story To College, think of us singing along with Sarah Bareilles, “We want to see you be brave.”

See you next week on the webinar!

Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO of Story To College and author of Write Out Loud, has taught over 10,000 students–from first-generation college students to the children of bankers and CEOs–and teachers from around the world how to tell their stories and write essays that win admission and scholarships at their top choice colleges.

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