Junior year is an extremely important year for high school students. Critical decisions will have a major impact on a student’s next five years and long beyond. College admissions officers look very closely at what a student does in junior year, so here are six tips for college bound juniors:
1. Prepare and Take Standardized Tests
Do not wait for senior year to take the all-important SAT and ACT, unless you thrive on stress. Students who take their tests in their junior year have time to see their weaknesses and study to eliminate them. The SAT or ACT can be retaken in the fall, and with the right preparation, scores almost always improve. Fall is the last chance to take the tests for many colleges. Students should take the SAT Subject tests in the subjects that they took this year. Subject tests are designed to measure specific knowledge in a particular academic area. Students who wait until their senior year to take the SAT Subject Tests, may find they’ve forgotten the material.
2. Consider Possible Majors
Make a list of possible college majors. Start with personal interests. These interests can include animals, nutrition, film, medicine, writing, or a million more. Make sure to include any motivating school subjects, like algebra or literature. Taking any one of a number of free assessment tests online can also be helpful. There are a number of websites that match interests with possible careers. Some high schools offer these tests through the school guidance counselor. The idea is not to commit to a career path, but to try and narrow down career possibilities. It’s worth noting that many students switch their major at least once during college.
3. Research Colleges
Gather information on different colleges and universities from books and websites. Attend local college fairs, as well as presentations by traveling college admissions officers. Go on as many campus tours as possible. Talk to alumni and-or current students. Scour social media for tidbits of information. Consider taking a college road tour over spring break. Make sure the whole range of schools is considered: public, private, large, and small. In the late spring, draft an initial college list. The goal is to start senior year with a list of fifteen to twenty colleges of interest. Having an idea of college majors makes the college search easier. However, a list of prospective colleges can and should be created even if there is no major in mind.
4. Search for Scholarships
Research scholarship opportunities and apply to them. There are many scholarships open to students in their junior year. Diligent juniors will also discover many scholarships they may want to apply to in their senior year. When scholarships are applied to, make sure everything is proofread and all deadlines are met.
5. Plan to Maximize Summer
Incoming seniors should spend the summer in a meaningful way. Colleges want to see that students spent their time wisely on an activity like an internship, job, or college program. To achieve this, students need to start planning their summer now. Many competitive and prestigious summer programs are available and these satisfy hundreds of interests including engineering, journalism, and business. The right programs help students learn and also look great on college applications. Attending a summer program at a college of interest also looks good to a college. While this does not guarantee admissions, it may help a student confirm interest in the school and make an early decision choice easier.
6. Get Good to Great Grades
Senior grades are not listed on college applications. This means colleges look at junior year grades to understand the academic abilities of a student. Junior year grades are the last full year of grades for admissions committees to look at in determining a student’s acceptance. Junior year is the last year to impress. A drop in grades can send the wrong signals to a college. Junior classes are more difficult than freshman ones, but a declining grade trend is bad news. An increased GPA or a consistently high average shows that a student is ready for college. Easier classes should not be taken in an attempt to raise grades. However, students can scale back in the subjects that are not important to their future goals, if they have well-defined goals. Be careful about this and consult a college advisor, as needed.
Another reason to get good grades: Junior year teachers are typically the ones to ask for letters of recommendation. Junior year comes with a lot of stress, but with planning and positivity, it can also be a time filled with excitement about the future. All this hard work can pay off.