Junior Year of High School: College Planning

A lot of people think that junior year is the time to start getting serious about college plans, but that’s not quite true. While waiting until junior year to start college prep is common, you should really start during freshman year. But most people don’t. Lucky for you, we’ve created a junior year of high school college planning to do list so you can get organized.  

Take your tests:

The first step is registering for the SAT’s and/or ACT’s. It’s important to register in advance because spots fill up pretty quickly, so look for testing centers nearby and secure your spot. We suggest signing up for more than one test date: having options will make the day less stressful and you’ll walk into the test knowing you’ll still be able to take it again. Yes, you’ll lose the $47.50 should you decide not to take the test again, but that’s still a better option than frantically searching for an open spot the night before the test because you got stuck in traffic on your way to the first test date. We harp on the importance of being prepared but also realize that things happen, so do yourself a favor and book a second backup option.

School Tours:  

Choosing a college is a lot like picking out an entree from the 70 page menu at Cheesecake Factory: you’re overwhelmed at the sheer amount of options, not sure where to begin, and unsure of what you’re looking for. The good news is that starting your college tours doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as deciding between double chunk chocolate or vanilla caramel swirl cheesecake.  

Many people think that because their best friend, parent, or grandparent went to X school that they should start things off by touring there, but the best place to start touring schools is actually a college that is close to where you currently live. And we really do mean any college.

You’ll save time and money by touring a nearby school and create a basis for comparisons moving forward. You won’t know much about the specifics of any college before you visit, so just start looking and eventually you’ll be able to compare and contrast. Keep the following in mind during your first visit:

1. Size

2. Culture

3. Proximity to home

4. Programs offered

We’ve created a college visit notepad for students to take to campus tours with them, and we highly suggest you use it. It’s not enough to say that you just didn’t like something, you need to know why you didn’t like it. If you did like it, was it the culture? Campus? Location? Make sure to keep all of your notes and update them immediately after the visit while things are still fresh. If you’re curious, we’ve also written about how many colleges to visit.

We advise against touring Ivy League schools before you take tests. Once you’ve gotten your first local college visit out of the way, it’s important to tour schools that align with your test scores and grades. Part of the reason people fall in love with reach schools is because they’re untouchable, so you should make sure that a majority of the schools you’re looking at are within reach.

Expand extracurriculars:

It looks more than a little suspicious when students take on a bunch of extracurriculars during their senior year, so focus on two to four areas of interest and build those out starting junior year (although ideally before.) Your extracurriculars should be somewhat concentrated so zero in on your passions and find ways to get involved and advance your skill set.  

Network with teachers for recommendation letters:

Start thinking about which teachers you want to ask for recommendation letters at the beginning of the year, and more importantly, become the kind of student a teacher actually wants to write a recommendation letter for. Help out, offer to do extra work, and take on more responsibilities. Ask teachers during your first semester and make sure you give them enough time to write them.

Take SAT2’s:

Students at TKG take two SAT2’s. We know that some colleges no longer require them but it’s better to take them just in case you need them. Always. Be. Prepared.

Create common app account:  

This is one pretty self explanatory. Create your common app in June and start brainstorming essay topics.  

Junior Year To Do List:

  1. Take tests early

  2. Tour early and tour often

  3. Expand extracurriculars

  4. Network with teachers for recommendation letters

  5. Take SAT2’s

  6. Create common app account

We can’t stress enough the importance of staying on top of your college planning during junior year. We know the application process can be daunting, but checking items off of this list will make for a much less stressful (and more enjoyable) senior year.  

We’re really good at helping students through this process, so reach out if you want our help.