Making the Grade: Early Application Preparation

Jay Bacrania of Signet Education advises high school juniors to get college applications out early.

When he's not working on getting his third degree as a black belt, junior Derek Baker in Newton, Massachusetts, hits the books every night to make sure he's excelling in school.

Baker wants to get into a good college. In fact, college is already on the minds of many of his peers.

Jay Bacrania is the founder and CEO of Signet Education, a tutoring, test prep and admissions consulting company out of Cambridge.

He says high school students should start preparing for the college application process in their junior years.

"It means, let's just start kind of thinking about this and say 'Where are we now in terms of grades, scores, activities, interests," he said.

Bacrania advises juniors to discover their "superpowers."

He says colleges want to see commitment, passion and initiative. You can demonstrate this to colleges by letting them know what you love or what you're good at.

"Especially at the very top-tier schools, they are looking for some sort of exceptional performance somewhere," said Bacrania. "That's an indication of initiative, drive, passion."

He also advises building a college plan timeline now.

If you haven't already, he says, you should chart out your college application journey - schedule things like standardized testing, school visits, application preparation and recommendation requests.

Finally, he says, do the research to be strategic about your school selection.

As application numbers to schools consistently increase, Bacrania says schools are prioritizing a student's fit for their campus. If you want to get an edge in college admissions, he says, spend the time finding the schools that best suit you.

Juniors can take SAT exams in the spring. But they can also sign up for daily practice questions from the SAT College Board here.

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