Your junior year of high school can be a pivotal moment in your journey toward applying to college. Read our advice below to make the most of it and stay on track to submit your best possible applications next year.
Finalize your course schedule.
Your high school curriculum is one of the most important components of your college application. Make sure you’re signed up for a good mix of classes that includes at least the core subject areas — math, science, English, social studies, and a foreign language — and use elective courses to explore topics that excite you. You should push yourself to take a rigorous course load while maintaining strong grades.
Be thoughtful about extracurricular activities.
Junior year is prime time to hone your involvement in activities that are important to you. If you’ve been participating in something for a while already (a sports team, a school club, band, theatre, etc.) plan on staying consistent with those activities in your junior year. You might want to seek leadership opportunities within the organizations you’re a member of or take on other responsibilities within those groups if you have the time. If there’s a new activity you’re genuinely excited about, jump in! Our interests naturally evolve over time, so try to strike a balance between the activities you’ve been committed to for years and the ones you want to try as you learn more about what matters to you.
Schedule a meeting with your school counselor.
Your high school college or guidance counselor is a great resource for advice and keeping you on track. Most colleges will also ask for a counselor recommendation (aka “The School Report”), so it’s important that your counselor knows you and what you want out of your college experience. Discuss your goals with them and let them know what activities you’re involved in. Ask if they have any questionnaires or surveys that you can fill out; these will help your counselor get to know you and also help you reflect on your own strengths and interests.
Start your college search in earnest.
Your junior year is the time to start thinking about which colleges and universities might be the best fit for you. You’ll want to consider all aspects of the college experience and figure out what’s most important to you, from the size and location of the school to the academic programs offered and the all-important “vibe” of the campus. Read our guide on college fit to start thinking about what matters to you in a college.
Colleges will also start conducting public info sessions and attending college fairs in the fall, both virtually and in person. Consider sitting in on some of those sessions to start learning about different schools, programs, and opportunities. Some colleges may send representatives to your high school. We definitely recommend you attend those visits if possible, as it’s a great chance to ask questions and show your interest in a college.
Create a standardized testing plan.
Even though many colleges and universities have gone test-optional this year, submitting scores at the high end of a school’s range can be a help to your applications. We recommend students sit for standardized tests if they’re able to do so safely. Many students take their first standardized tests in the winter or spring of junior year, so make use of the fall as time to study and prepare. If you haven’t already determined which standardized test you want to take, start with our guide to the SAT and ACT to see which test fits your style.
In the fall of your junior year, you will also likely take the PSAT at your high school. The PSAT is what qualifies you for a variety of scholarship programs, in particular, the National Merit Scholarship Program. Your performance on the PSAT is also good practice for the SAT and can help you gauge your performance.
All of this may feel like a lot, but taking some time to make a plan for your courses, test strategy, activities, and college visions will set you up for success when next year rolls around. Your school counselor can help you look at your bigger picture and set longer-term goals; your future self will thank you when it’s time to buckle down and apply.
Expert Admissions provides personalized guidance to prepare you for applying to college, including advice about courses, extracurricular activities, and building your college list. Contact us for more information.