Focus day lets juniors look ahead

McLean hosts courses and workshops intended to support juniors

Active Learning – Juniors listen to the presentation from college representatives during the Common App Essay writing station.

On the morning of March 8th, while the rest of the school was experiencing their everyday classes, juniors got the opportunity to experience a look into the future.

“Junior Focus Day was interesting because I didn’t really know what to expect,” junior Mary Johnson said. “When they called us to the auditorium, I wasn’t sure what the day would look like or what it was about.”

Junior Focus Day is a long-time tradition unique to McLean. A portion of a school day in the spring is dedicated to aiding students in the junior class and helping them figure out a path for their future.

“We’re less than 16 months away from graduation for these students,” said Mary Barnes, McLean’s College and Career Specialists. “It’s now time for [the juniors] to start thinking more specifically about what [they’re] doing in the future.”

The day consists of four 30-minute sessions, of which students choose from an array of 11 stations to spend their time. The stations include everything from talking to NCAA representatives to learning tips and tricks for writing college essays. These stations are headed by spokespeople from colleges around the country.

“Employment skills is one of the best [ones] to attend,” Barnes said. “It’s not just for students who plan to get a job right out of McLean because the resume writing and interviewing skills will help students when applying to colleges and scholarships.”

The College and Career Center uses visits from college admissions representatives in the fall as a networking opportunity. Once the fall visits wrap up, Barnes reaches out to all of the representatives who visited McLean to ask if they would like to support McLean students by administering a station for Junior Focus Day. This year, admissions representatives from over 15 schools aided in Junior Focus Day.

“It was super helpful to get advice from the people who could actually be reading our applications” junior Abby Hart said.

Stations offered this year varied from those in the years past. The station that focused on international students was taken off the list and replaced by a guide to writing short essay questions.

“It’s a very difficult skill to convey yourself in 100-200 words or less,” Barnes said.”I feel like those are definitely the hardest essays to write.”

The College and Career Center wanted to prioritize providing stations applicable to all students, especially because most juniors were not used to writing short essays with a word limit. The short essay station was an addition that was well received by students.

“The short essay station was definitely my favorite,” Hart said. “The [University of Georgia] rep went very in-depth about how to go about writing supplemental essays, and he was very funny and engaging.”

The most popular station among students this year, however, was the Mock Admissions station, which replicated the admissions process by having students play the role of admissions officers reviewing applicants.

“I liked the [Mock Admissions] station because it gave me some good insight about the order of the admissions process and what colleges find most important,” junior Anna Ntep said. “I also learned that most applications are read by many different officers in order to make a decision.”

At the end, a survey was sent out by the McLean counselors in order to get student feedback about the most helpful stations.

“All around, it was very informative, and I learned a lot about what to expect in the next few months,” Johnson said.

The day was followed by a college panel for parents so that students and their families alike have all the resources needed to begin the college application process.

“I encourage people to visit colleges over spring and summer break,” Barnes said. “[Juniors] are going to hit the ground running when we come back, and it’s best to prepare yourself as much as possible.”