Winter Focus


When winter settles in, it marks the halfway point of the academic school year. As a high school Junior, this is a critical time to strategize about college admissions. Perhaps the most important element of the college admissions process is setting yourself apart from other applicants. As acceptance rates have become more competitive than ever before, getting the gears turning and practicing self-reflection during your Junior year can provide a significant edge.

At Cultivate, we believe that the most successful students grow through the college admissions process. So what are the conversations and topics that need to be addressed for high school students to grow in self-awareness while developing their personal strategic edge in the college admissions process?

Below are key questions to consider during the winter of Junior year that assist with not only going, but growing through the high school experience while helping you navigate what’s next with confidence, intentionality, and organization. The essays you’ll submit to colleges during the application process deal directly with the prompts we’ve created for this exercise, so take this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and find out what you really want for your future.

We recommend students and parents/mentors come together at least four times a year and make room for a reflective hour to discuss seasonal checklist questions. Working through each question by writing first and discussing second will create deeper connections in awareness and actions.

In our practice, we encourage this process to occur with parents and mentors answering the prompts from their perspective. This invites multiple viewpoints to inform the conversation. In between these intentional conversations, it’s important to set smaller goals and follow-up conversations for accountability on a weekly and monthly basis.

By working through these questions, we’ve found that students get to know themselves and their priorities better. This translates to more confidence and direction; key items colleges look for on essays and applications.


Winter Term Reflection for Juniors:

How do I practice resilience and express my authentic self in my personal, social, and academic interactions?
    • What were the outcomes of my first standardized test attempts? Is the SAT or ACT more suited for my maximum success? Am I satisfied with my standardized test scores considering the colleges I’ve tentatively identified? What is my plan for improvement?
    • What have I learned about myself during my first semester of Junior year? How have I changed or grown? Have there been any great triumphs or setbacks? How are these life events making me more clear about who I am?
    • What is the best use of my time over winter break? Tours? An internship? Studying for standardized tests? Shadowing a professional in my career/major field of interest?
    • I know that if I plan on applying to college Early Action or Early Decision, my transcript will only include my Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior year grades. What goals do I have for this crucial semester of my high school career to prove my readiness for college?