If you’re heading into junior year, take a look at this to-do list:
Finalize your fall course schedule. Colleges play close attention to your academic performance throughout high school, and junior year is no exception. Make sure that you are challenging yourself in multiple areas by taking advanced or honors classes and pursuing subjects beyond the minimum requirements at your school. If you want to make any changes to your schedule, or try to move into a more advanced class, make sure to get in touch with your counselor right away.
Make an appointment with your college counselor. Discuss your college goals and academic interests, and give him/her a copy of your activities resume. You can also ask if your counselor has any college questionnaires or surveys to fill out. These are not only helpful for your counselor to get to know you better, but also to help you reflect on your talents, strengths, and interests. The college process is very much about getting to know yourself better, and filling out a survey from your counselor is a great way to begin that self-reflection.
Create a standardized testing plan. Most colleges will require that you submit an SAT or ACT score, and possibly SAT Subject Test scores. In order to avoid scrambling next year, create your testing plan now. You will want to take one or two “official” SAT or ACT tests this year, and possibly some SAT Subject Tests.
PSAT. You will most likely be scheduled for a PSAT at your high school in the fall of your junior year. The junior year PSAT is how you can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, and a way to gauge your performance on the SAT.
SAT. Many students take their first “official” SAT in January or March of junior year, which leaves the entire fall to study and prepare. However, if you felt great about your PSAT, there is no harm in trying the SAT in the fall of your junior year, as well.
ACT. Many students, especially on the East Coast, may not be as familiar with the ACT. The ACT has more sections than the SAT (English, Math, Science, Reading, and an optional Writing section), but is almost an hour shorter. Colleges will accept the SAT or the ACT, and in some cases will accept the ACT in lieu of the SAT and Subject Tests. Many students prefer one or the other, so take a diagnostic of each.
Subject Tests. There are a range of SAT Subject Tests in Math, Science, Foreign Languages, History, and Literature, and advanced coursework is often the best preparation. For example, if you are taking AP US History this year, you should consider taking the SAT Subject Test in US History around the same time as the AP exam. Remember – you can take up to 3 Subject Tests in one sitting, so try and find 2 or 3 tests you can take at once.
Attend a local college fair. Maybe your high school hosts its own college fair. If so – great! If your school doesn’t have its own college fair, there are often local organizations that host college fairs, or there might be a National College Fair coming to a city near you this fall. Once at a fair, branch out; take the opportunity to learn about new schools, and also to delve deeper into schools already on your radar.