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What can I do as a junior to prepare for college admission?

QUESTION: I'm a high school junior and am starting to worry about college. Do you have any advice on what I can do now to help me get into college? Is it too early to start? Signed, Starting to Stress

Dear Starting to Stress: Junior year is your last reprieve before the hectic college admission schedule of senior year begins. Just ask your senior friends what this means and they'll tell you! But you can avoid some of the stress and frenzy by getting a head start today.

As a junior, you can probably see the end of high school is near. It might be tempting then to ease up on your schoolwork. This would be a huge mistake. One of the most important factors that colleges take into account is your class selection and grades. Junior year is the time to hit the books the hardest. Colleges also place more emphasis on your junior and senior year grades than those from the previous years.

Junior year is also the time for you to excel in extracurricular activities. Run for office, lead a project or enter a competition. Try to make a significant contribution to something that you enjoy doing outside of the classroom. When colleges look at your activities they want to see quality of participation not quantity. This year may also be a good time to drop some of the activities that you don't really care for and focus only on those that you enjoy.

If you've never had a meaningful conversation with any of your teachers, now is the time to do so. Focus on building your relationship with your teachers. Next year you will need to ask at least two teachers for recommendations. Ideally, your teachers will be able to not only write about your academic abilities but also about you as a person. So help your teachers get to know you.

Finally, you should also take this time to start exploring colleges. Visit local schools to get a feel for what a college campus is like. Suggest to your parents that the family hops in the car and takes a vacation visiting colleges. Don't forget to take advantage of the Internet and visit college Web sites to get familiar with what they have to offer. Seriously think about where you want to spend the four years that you are in college.

By getting a jump on college admission today, you'll be less stressed when senior year rolls around and better able to enjoy your last year in high school.

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Gen & Kelly Tanabe

Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.