This article was originally published on Jan 14, 2018, and has been updated.
Junior year of high school marks a turning point in the college admissions process.
It’s a year filled with milestones.
Researching colleges, developing teacher relationships, visiting campuses…the list goes on. College-bound juniors have a lot on their plate.
And did I mention testing?
Yes—ACT or SAT testing takes up a big chunk of junior year for college-bound teens!
The academic workload in eleventh grade is usually kicked up a notch or two as well.
Juniors are starting to ask themselves questions like, “What’s next?” and “am I on the right track?”
Friends and family also start to ask: “Where do you want to go to college?”
Especially for a junior who is not so sure what to say about their college prospects, junior year can be a bit of a pressure cooker.
I put together these five tips for college-bound juniors who want to get into the college of their choice and get the money to do so at the same time.
5 Tips for College-Bound High School Juniors
These tips will help college-bound juniors (and their parents) make the most of the year as they prepare for college.
1. Take challenging courses.
Colleges want to see that students challenged themselves during high school.
Every student is different, so a challenging course to one junior may be easy to another.
At the same time, juniors should maintain balance. This means taking a mix of courses that allow you to be challenged by course content as well as those that come more naturally.
2. Research colleges.
When I say “research” colleges, I mean a thorough, consistent gathering of information on colleges that could be a good fit.
During your research, you want to consider how your options would be a good academic fit, social/cultural fit, and financial fit for you.
When it comes to a college’s financial fit, knowing what costs to expect will help you know the steps you’ll need to take to secure the funds to attend.
(By the way, you won’t want to miss this post outlining case studies of how students earned big scholarships!)
Juniors can gather information from college websites, books, directories, and other resources. The goal is to learn about each college at a deeper level.
It’s very likely that your college applications will include teacher recommendations.
The 3 things that qualify a teacher to write a strong recommendation are:
- The student knows the teacher.
- The teacher knows the student.
- The teacher can write well about the student.
If they don’t already have a teacher who fits all of these qualifications, juniors can develop positive relationships with teachers to “qualify” them as recommenders.
In fact, this is an important task for junior year!
Juniors should plan to meet with one or two teachers on a regular basis throughout the year. They may also check-in with teachers after graded assignments, during free periods, or at the beginning of each term.
4. Visit college campuses.
Spring break of junior year is a great time to visit college campuses.
Many other juniors around the country are visiting campuses in the spring as well. Juniors should be prepared by researching and scheduling campus visits well in advance.
Before your campus visit, be sure to review the college’s website and have questions prepared.
(Note to parents: Let your student schedule the visits, not you!)
On the day of the visit, remember to take notes and have an open mind and good attitude. From the moment you arrive on campus, you’re being interviewed!
5. Take the ACT or SAT.
College-bound teens should take either the ACT or SAT in junior year.
If the first test is taken in the winter, it allows time for a retake before summer.
The goal is to avoid taking any standardized test in the fall of senior year.
In my experience working with college-bound students, senior year is already so busy with course workloads, college deadlines, and application essays. Having to take standardized tests too is a big nuisance.
Besides that, retake scores usually go down.
Junior year may come with a lot of stress and unanswered questions. With consistent steps taken throughout the year, it can be pivotal on the path to college admissions success!
And there’s plenty of help available for students and parents.
The fact you’re reading this means your motivation and focus to help your teen get to the front of the line has already moved them a leap ahead of the pack!
All you need now is to create a winning plan to help your teen Get In and Get Money.
If you are a busy parent who wants to help your college-bound junior reach their full potential, don’t miss my “Get In and Get Money” Workshop!
Need a little more guidance?
For one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college click here.
If you’d like to learn more about getting into college and getting money for college, don’t miss these articles either:
What other tips for 11th grade success would you suggest? Please let me know in the comments below!