The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

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Jumpstart for Juniors

Courtesy of Macey Neubauer
Junior Macey Neubauer visited Miami University in Ohio over Spring Break.

Juniors: the time is here. Although college seems far off with an entire year of senior festivities ahead, the college process is beginning and it’s time to get a head start. When parents are bugging you about applications and essays before school is even out, it can seem overwhelming. Starting to plan ahead now will allow you to be less overwhelmed come fall. These are just a few simple and exciting things to be doing this summer that will really help the entire college process go smoothly.

Visit your top schools

There are countless numbers of colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and the world, which can make it seem impossible to narrow it all down. A great tool that Libertyville High School has to offer is Naviance. Naviance is central for a college search and includes a resource called “The College Search” with 4,643 different schools to choose from. This tool helps you narrow down colleges according to location, majors, test scores, tuitions, size, Greek life, sports, housing, and dozens of other characteristics. This is a great way to figure out what type of college fit is best for you since there are so many things to take into consideration.

“It’s a great way to search but make sure if there’s a college that you like, that you add it to your list because that list is super important. First off, it tells us if the school is Common App or not and it also gives you all of the deadlines,” said CRC counselor Ms. Amy Belstra.

Once you have narrowed your search down to five or 10 colleges, make a plan to visit! If there are multiple schools of interest in a similar area, try to visit a few schools that are within reasonable distance of one another over a long weekend. The summer time break leaves lots of room to go and visit, so don’t take this precious time for granted.

“A lot of juniors are really worried about visiting over the summer because school is not in session and I always tell them, ‘It’s okay, there’s no bad time to visit a college.’ You can still get a sense of the environment,” said Belstra.

There are tours at colleges all throughout summer and many summer programs and camps that may relate to your intended field of study. The best way to know if a college is a good fit for you is to visit and see how it feels. Make sure you come prepared to the college visits, as the information can be overwhelming. Think about what you are looking for at that particular school before you visit and make sure to focus on that aspect while you’re there.

Start thinking about the Common App

The Common App is a college application that over 500 schools accept. The prompts for the 2015-2016 Common App are already posted, so you can start to brainstorm now.

“Some colleges actually open their applications up pretty early in the summer, like July 1 and the Common App will open August 1. I don’t want anybody to touch it until August 1 because if you create an account now, it just screws you up and it makes it harder because you’ll have to create a new one later,” said Belstra.

The Common App doesn’t need to be completed in one sitting, so it makes for a productive activity to work on throughout the summer when you’re taking breaks from watching Netflix or going to the pool. The Common App prompts are broad and they are that way on purpose, so make sure you can really narrow in on “who you are” to make for a unique essay that stands out to the admissions board.

“Even though I don’t expect students to necessarily write an essay, if you do, you have given yourself this huge gift because you’re going to start senior year with one of the most stressful parts of the college process done,” said Belstra.

You can find the prompts for this fall on

Volunteer or get a job

While it’s easy to fall behind in the summer, being productive and getting things accomplished is a much more satisfying feeling. Volunteering right here in the community is a great way to help your resume while also giving back to an important cause.

“I always say if you’re going to  volunteer for something, do it in an area you enjoy,” said Belstra.

Starting to volunteer in the community or with a leadership group can be great resume-builders. Naviance offers a spot to build your resume online so you can organize all of your activities, sports, volunteering, jobs, and clubs for when it comes time to apply. Getting a summer job will also keep you busy and more importantly, help make money. Senior year and college comes with a lot of expenses so it’s never a bad idea to earn some extra money.

“I worked at Mickey Finn’s over the summer and I do think it helped enrich my application,” said senior Tristan Stelzner, who is attending University of Colorado-Boulder in the fall.

Start thinking about your teacher recommendation(s)

Many schools require at least one recommendation letter, whether it be from a teacher or counselor, and some colleges do not require one at all. Start thinking about the teachers at school who have something nice to say about you.

“I had Mr. [Mike] Cook for a period and a half for physics, so I felt like he really knew me, and that’s why I asked him,” said Stelzner.

Building positive and strong relationships with teachers is important for just this reason. Plan how you are going to approach your teacher about the letter and make sure to do this in person and in a professional way.

“Keep in mind that it’s not always the teacher where you got the straight As; it’s the class where you really worked hard,” said Belstra.

Make sure to be frequently checking the sites of colleges you are interested in. Schools will be updating their deadlines and it’s important to have those dates on the calendar so you don’t miss any. Options such as early decision and early action can begin as early as November 1. In most cases, the earlier you apply, the earlier you will know your admission statement. Knowing the school you will be attending before first semester is over is a comforting feeling and will allow for a less stressful senior year.

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The student news publication of Libertyville High School
Jumpstart for Juniors