Junior Year – College Prep’s Big Push
In this blog post’s featured image, I may have taken it upon myself to project one of my favorite movie quotes of all time but, nonetheless, junior year is by far the most critical year in high school. It is the final third of your high school transcript that college admissions will be able to evaluate when you submit applications in the Fall of your senior year. We don’t mean to trivialize senior year and behave as if it does not matter, but in terms of your created body of work, junior year is it. On top of it being your final chance to impact your Class Rank and GPA, there are also some important tests that must be studied for and mastered.
First, ensure you have an adequately rigorous schedule. As stated in our Freshman and Sophomore year posts, showing an increased rigor in your schedule and more targeted extracurricular experience is vital over the course of your high school career. We recommend you read these articles even if you aren’t in either of these grades in order to gain critical insight into the overall high school landscape.
Second, determine which college admissions standardized test you will take and know the test dates. Whether it is the SAT or ACT, identify which one you will take early on and start studying for it. Junior year is filled with a lot of commitments. You are probably becoming a more prominent figure in your chosen extracurricular activity, your courses are getting harder, and you are dedicating more time accomplishing all your activities. As a result, junior year takes a bit of a toll on you emotionally and requires more meticulous planning.
Third, take a stab at putting a resume together. It doesn’t need to be fantastic, but it needs to be a starting point. This is something that takes time to create and is often very difficult to do in just a few sittings. By taking a few moments every once in a while, it will make your college application process MUCH faster. Think of the clubs, sports, leadership roles, community service activities, jobs, and even religious involvement. Look out for later blog posts with resume building tips.
Fourth, strongly consider getting a job if you haven’t had one at this point. Even if it is for only a few hours every week, colleges want to know what you do with your time. By establishing that you take on responsibility, try to support some of your personal activities, and demonstrate a hard working mentality, colleges become more aware of the type of individual you intend to become.
PSAT – We discussed this in the Sophomore year article, but it must be mentioned here again. If you took this test during your sophomore year, your scores did not count towards the National Merit Scholarship Program. Only Junior year PSAT scores count. In addition, some students find it valuable to take the PSAT again in their Junior year as there is an increased likelihood that you will do better and qualify for scholarships via a better score. If you are one of those people, by all means, take it in your Junior year as well as in your Sophomore year. Most of us, however, are better served by taking aim and beginning to study for either the SAT or ACT.
At least two more campus visits should be done during your Junior year. Your familiarity with what different colleges offer should be growing. Be sure to request materials from these schools online, as this action is recorded and viewed favorably when schools consider your application for admission. Yes, this is really something they consider because they want to track the students who are interested in them. Visits and information requests help demonstrate your interest. Don’t forget to consider the size and focus of the institutions and try to gain exposure to a variety of types that fit your needs.
You should begin to plan out your senior year schedule. Senior year is still important. Colleges still see your schedule and will often request your final GPA in the spring of your senior year. The choices you make for your senior year are increasingly more important when you are on the cusp of gaining entry to the college of your choice. One way to look at it is to ask yourself: Will my college take me or the other student who is continually pushing themselves and staying involved?
Request your letters of recommendation. There is always a mad rush to obtain recommendation letters in the fall of senior year and teachers often become quite overwhelmed by the quantity of these requests so getting this done your Junior year can make things a lot easier. Be sure to target someone who has been influential in your development and can speak to your growth so that you have a better chance of receiving a well-rounded letter of recommendation.
Consider attending a summer program at a college. College summer programs allow you to explore a school in greater depth, makes you a more attractive candidate for that school, and gives you a glimpse into what college life is like at that university. Schools have many different focuses and summer programs provide an excellent opportunity to begin thinking about what you want to study once in college.
AP Tests – We told you at the beginning of this article there was a lot to juggle: AP tests, SAT/ACT prep, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and community service! We know, it’s a lot to handle. However, in the spring of your Junior year, many individuals target a couple of courses they have excelled in and begin studying for the AP tests. Any AP classes you have taken should have been grooming you for these and, if not, it is time to start cracking the books. These are an excellent opportunity to gain college credits without the high price tag, so don’t skip them. This process will also continue into your senior year.
Begin narrowing your college list even further. You should have a good idea at the end of this year of about 8-10 schools you like. Depending on your budgetary limitations, you may have to get this list down to five. Be sure to work with your parents to help narrow down this list. This should be done HEAVILY in conjunction with creating financial aid projections, needs, and capabilities. This just happens to be where EDUsquared excels with our College Savings Course.