Beacon 11th Grade Plan

General Advice:
  • Develop a testing plan, and work to determine an ACT or SAT preference before the conclusion of your junior year. Remember that all colleges treat both tests equally, and you should avoid assuming a preference based on geographic location or suburban legend.
  • Continue putting forth your best effort in your classes. Colleges pay close attention to your grades in the junior year to see how you perform in more difficult, upper-level courses. Many colleges will make decisions on your candidacy before they have the opportunity to see grades from your senior year, so your junior record tends to hold quite a bit of weight.
  • Pursue coursework in the junior and senior year that provides an appropriate level of challenge. Selective colleges want to see applicants take full advantage of a rigorous curriculum, which for Beacon students includes IB coursework. Because your success in these courses is also important, you should follow teacher and advisor recommendations when considering this coursework—especially the full diploma program. Pursuing rigor at the expense of your grades, your positive attitude towards school, or your mental and physical health is inadvisable.
  • Focus extracurricular involvement around your interests, abilities, and leadership potential. Work with sponsors, mentors, and coaches to explore ways to continue your involvement in college if you so choose. Start putting together portfolios, audition materials, athletic resumes, and highlight reels. As you become interested in specific colleges, make contact with coaches, sponsors, and department chairs to find out how their programs might match your interests.
  • Stay sane. Many students report a significant increase in academic workload while juggling greater demands of time and effort. Time management and academic stress can reach a fever pitch in the junior year. Use parents, teachers, and friends to maintain a good sense of perspective and reach out to others when you need help.
  • Concentrate on cultivating powerful and productive relationships with your teachers. You will ask at least one teacher from your junior year to write you a college recommendation.
  • Build a positive relationship with your college counselor.
  • Pay close attention to your social media presence. College admissions officers reserve the right to check out your posts and can often access material that you might consider private.
  • Use SCOIR regularly to research colleges and to manage and update a list of colleges in which you have interest.
  • Plan your summer early. Having a productive summer between junior and senior year is an important element for success in the college process.
Counseling Plan:
  • All juniors take the PSAT in October. This exam also acts as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, so it is important to take the exam seriously. Juniors will review their results with the college counseling staff in December. It is also helpful to compare results between sophomore and junior year to construct a plan for study and improvement.
  • Juniors and their families should plan to attend Beacon’s annual college admissions fair (co-hosted with Lycee Francais Chicago).
  • College representatives visit Beacon throughout the fall semester, and a few colleges will also visit in the spring. If your schedule allows, please join these representatives when they visit campus. Juniors are allowed to miss class for these visits once they have secured permission from their classroom teacher. It is particularly important for juniors to visit with college representatives from schools outside of our region, as these colleges might not visit Beacon every year.
  • Beacon hosts a college night for juniors and their parents in November. This night serves as the official “kick-off” for the college process.
  • Juniors meet individually with the college counselors in the winter to discuss options after Beacon. Through this individual meeting, students begin the postsecondary research process. After engaging in initial research, college counselors meet with families to discuss boundaries, expectations, questions, and concerns. Counselors then collaborate with students to construct a balanced college list based on student interest and aspiration.
  • Counselors periodically meet with the junior class throughout the winter and spring to discuss search processes and procedures, the business model of higher education, engagement practices and strategies, ways in which colleges make admissions decisions, and exercises to heighten self-awareness.
  • Juniors can plan to visit college campuses over the Presidents’ Day holiday, Spring Break, and summer vacation. 
  • All juniors will register for and take the SAT and/or the ACT before the conclusion of the year. Both tests are accepted at all colleges nationwide. Students and families should work with college counselors to determine the exact timing of when to begin official testing. Generally the testing window will commence between November and April of the junior year and will continue through November of the senior year.
  • Select two academic teachers to compose letters of recommendation on your behalf. For the vast majority of applicants, these letters should be from teachers in core academic disciplines from the junior year of high school.
  • As juniors identify colleges of interest, they should familiarize themselves with the admissions and testing requirements. While very few schools (4) require SAT subject tests and only 28 require the essay section of an SAT or ACT, juniors should be generally aware of what is required by each college or program that interests them.
Summer Between Junior and Senior Year: 
  • Research, visit, and refine. Find that match by engaging fully in the research and visiting process. Even though most colleges are not in session during the summer, they remain vibrant and bustling communities, and students can get a sense of a college during a summer tour.
  • Use SCOIR to narrow the college list. Ideally, most students should enter the application process in the senior year with a list of five to eight schools representing each of the three admissions categories: reach, target, and likely.
  • Write the first draft of the Common Application essay. You will continue to revise these essays throughout the first half of the senior year with your college counselor.
  • Engage in meaningful and genuine activities over the summer. Take a course, enroll in a program, work a summer job, engage in community service, and travel. Look into leadership programs or youth job programs like the Chicago Park Service. Stay busy, but find some time to relax as well.