Nothing is worse than stressed out teens and parents feeling like they have to nag. When families put off crucial duties on the college-bound journey, stress and nagging are what results. Tackle these four in the fall of the junior year to make a more enjoyable and successful journey.

1. Plan ACT-SAT Testing Dates & Prep

Many states, including my home of Ohio, give the ACT or SAT to all juniors in the second semester. For some, this should be the first test and for others, it could potentially be the last clearing the busy spring schedule and the college application season.  First, determine if and when your state test date is.

For students who complete Algebra 2 before the junior year (or block schedule students taking algebra 2 first semester), LEAP highly recommends the first ACT or SAT is between June and December of the junior year. Many students are finished testing after 2 attempts!

Students taking Algebra 2 as juniors will benefit from starting testing early in the second semester due to the amount of algebra 2 concepts covered on the tests. Because both tests are offered at least 7 times per school year, there is still ample time to complete testing before busy college application season starts.

The key to maximized test scores with fewer testing attempts and expense is an individualized prep plan. Instead of taking an official ACT to get a baseline, which we think is a waste of money, LEAP allows students to test drive the ACT with LEAP and keep the test and answers along with the LEAP Lens Report!

LEAP offers free guidance on planning both test dates and prep via submitting a planning request here or attending our next ACT-SAT Planning Webinar.

2. Schedule College Visit Dates

While you may not yet be ready to select where to visit, LEAP recommends you pull out the school calendar and family calendar to set when you’ll visit. The timeline is tight for fitting in college visits, and we recommend a May 1st completion date for any visits in the junior year. Keep in mind, it’s highly likely there will be additional visits senior year, but those should be during the school year.

Bottom-line is to visit when college is in session which means utilizing student’s days off including teacher in-service, fall and spring break, Monday holidays (MLK, Presidents’ Day), and approved college visit days. Once your days are set, you can work on tackling where to visit which for many is much more complicated.

3. Get Clarity on College Major & Career

We believe starting with the end in mind is essential in most things in life including college selection. You wouldn’t buy a plane ticket without first planning where to vacation. Why would you do differently with what may very well prove to be a 6-figure investment?

Put simply, college (while it should be fun) is a 4-year vehicle to the 40+ year career. Identifying best-fit career options, and the majors that lead to them will help students get out in four years before scholarships expire. Two heartbreakers are when a student loves the colleges then realizes they don’t have their major, which can be avoided by starting with the end in mind, and students applying to colleges which ultimately they can’t afford which leads us to…..

4. Set the College Budget

The 2017-18 average cost for only tuition at an in-state college was $9,970 and for private college tuition was $34,740; room and board are typically as much, and often more than in-state tuition. To plan the college budget before visiting colleges, families should determine their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as well as meet with their financial advisor to establish from where the funds will come (504’s, savings, disposable income, student loans or other sources).

Once the budget is established, families can select affordable colleges to consider based on probable scholarships the student would receive. The data and information to make highly probably educated guesses exists and make the selection process far easier.