Navigating the Junior Year: The College Frenzy Unveiled

In spring of junior year, families can discuss college with more urgency and anxiety, now that  what was once a distant goal is suddenly taking shape on the horizon. SATs, ACTs, campus tours, assessing one’s qualifications especially in light of the latest Fall 2024 admissions decisions—parents and students find themselves immersed in the whirlwind of college prep.

Families commonly believe they’re lagging behind. College admissions seems like an ordeal, overshadowing the essence of what’s actually occuring—reflecting on a teenager’s burgeoning aspirations and the best educational environment where they can transition to a prosperous adulthood.  

The college admissions process, while complex, hasn’t fundamentally changed over the years. Yet, with each applicant applying to more colleges, skyrocketing costs, and the prestige associated with highly selective schools as a reward for topping the academic meritocracy, families often approach admissions with a “poverty like mindset”, wondering how to transform into “The Ideal Applicant”. But with 3500+ colleges in the US, not everyone’s path leads to an Ivy League door.

Now is a time for reflection, for juniors and their parents to really consider what they value in a college experience and develop criteria to select institutions—matching the college to the student, not the other way around. Families have control in select-ing colleges, aligned with their values. 

First, consider anxiety as a warning sign to pause and reflect. Then, through the analysis, students can often determine what they seek during college, effectively defining a guide for the next steps in the college application and admissions process. 

Secondly, not every step needs to be completed by yesterday, and families are now on an 18 month journey with multiple stages. Spring of junior year is the “College Selection Stage”, the preparation for the “Actually Applying to College Stage” in Fall of senior year. And, families will have on-going conversations. 

With steady, thoughtful preparation, students and families will find their way to the colleges that best suit them, be it Harvard or elsewhere. Let me say that again…start with a thorough reflection of one’s own values, THEN match the college to you. Own the driver’s seat.

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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