Five second semester reminders for juniors

For the college-bound, the second semester of 11th grade is arguably your most important semester.  Here are five tips to help you make it count. 

1.  Take the SAT or ACT at least once.

Leave the fall of senior year to re-take a test if necessary, but not to take it for the first time. 

2.  If you're ever going to get the best GPA of your life, this is the semester to do it. 

If you're legitimately working as hard as you can in school, good job.  But if you haven't done as well in the past as you could have, here is your chance to show colleges that you're getting better with age.  If you need them, here are five things you can start doing tomorrow that will get you better grades.

3.  Pick one or two classes where you believe you can give a great performance and then deliver it. 

That will give teachers good stories to tell in letters of recommendation.

4.  Evaluate your activities and make sure you're actually enjoying them. 

Colleges are going to ask you what your most meaningful activities were.  If you're doing things just because you think you should, that doesn't lead to good answers (or to a fulfilling life outside of class).  You might even consider quitting an activity and that's not fulfilling and replacing that time with something you want to do. 

5.  Keep college admissions in perspective. 

There's nothing wrong with hard work and even an occasional late night.  But it's important to remember that applying and getting accepted to college shouldn't feel like being locked in a life and death struggle.  Some people are going to treat it that way, but please don't be one of them.  I would challenge anyone to find a smart, motivated kid whose life was forever damaged because his dream school said, "No."  Work hard, be nice to other people, and get more excited about the opportunity to attend college than you do about one particular school.  I promise you'll be fine.