School starts on Sept. 4 and for high school juniors and seniors, this means it's also time to start thinking about college. Here's my advice on what to focus on as you look ahead to college.

Juniors : The most important thing you can do for yourself this year is to concentrate on your studies. Take the most challenging courses you can, and strive to do well. If you are involved in some extra-curricular activities you enjoy, stick with them. If you have not become involved yet – join something! This does not have to be at your high school; it can also be in your community. You will look (and feel!) more balanced if you do something besides study. But don't obsess about college applications yet – most high schools do not begin college programs until the spring of junior year. One more thing: READ. I cannot stress more emphatically that students who read widely and constantly fare much better, in the college process and overall, than students who read little.

Seniors : This is your year, and many challenges lie ahead. But they do not have to be panic-inducing challenges! Plan ahead carefully, and you'll be fine. My suggestion is NOT to use electronic planners only – post a written calendar, list of due dates, goals and so forth where you can see it clearly each day.

Here is what you need to do in September:

• Make an appointment to see your college counselor

• Find two academic teachers you can speak to about writing letters of reference

• Sign up to see the college admissions representatives who will visit your school

• Write a draft of your personal statement and ask your English teach to review it

• Start working on applications to schools on your list that have rolling admissions

• Register for any standardized tests you still need to take

And think about this: there are many current articles on the internet about how students are drowning in tuition debt. You can avoid this by applying to public colleges and universities. Do not be put off by the brevity of the CUNY application – the excellent education you can receive at these schools is not represented by the mechanical nature of their admission process. Outstanding students with strong records of service and intellectual curiosity should apply to the CUNY Macaulay Honors program; the process requires considerable work, but the results are absolutely worth it!

Senioritis: forget about it. Senior year grades count.

Find an ally: students, each of you needs at least one faculty member who strongly believes in you. Identify that person and share your hopes and dreams. Maybe that person will recommend schools to you, or will offer to write a recommendation for you, or will introduce you to someone else who can help. But do not wait for the last minute! Plan ahead, say please and thank you, and get going!