How to Spend Junior Year of High School Prepping for College

There are many critical steps to take, so spend the school year wisely.

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Meet with your counselor if you’re worried about college application fees.
Meet with your counselor if you’re worried about college application fees.

Junior year of high school is not too soon to think about college. In fact, it can be one of the most exciting times in the college search process, since students can explore a broad range of college options.

At the same time, however, there are certain tasks a student can complete during junior year in order to be on track for a great college experience a couple years down the road.

JULIE:

I remember being surprised at all the focus put on college during Lindsey's junior year of high school. But once you understand how much there is to do, it makes sense.

With her brother now starting his junior year, I'm more prepared. Here's what we'll be focused on, which might be of help if you have a high school junior in your family, too.

1. Contact the high school counseling office: We're lucky that our high school has a college admissions workshop scheduled for parents and students during September. If your school has many college-bound students, you might have something similar.

But even if you don't, plan for you and your child to meet with the counselors to find out what steps should be taken during the student's junior year.

[Ask your high school counselor these questions.]

2. Schedule an SAT or ACT exam: Early in the junior year is a perfect time to get that first ACT or SAT test out of the way. Doing it early will keep the pressure off and will let your student know where he or she stands and if further exams or test preparation is needed.

[Get advice on SAT and ACT test prep.]

3. Keep grades up: As a high school junior, time is running out for your student to bump up his or her GPA. Since college application season is typically in the fall of senior year, junior year is often the last chance to get that GPA up for college admissions and scholarships.

LINDSEY:

Students may think that senior year is when the bulk of the college search should take place, but I found that many students were already making their final college decisions early that year.

Getting the process started at the beginning of junior year can help take some of the pressure off, and can help students to not feel behind as their high school career comes to a close.

1. Compile a college list: I've said that students should narrow down their college lists by senior year to reduce the number of required visits and applications, but junior year is the time when students can think big with their college choices.

Junior year is the time for exploring a wide range of college options, considering various locations, costs, sizes, and offered majors.

[Use the U.S. News college directory to search for schools.]

2. Earn AP or junior college credits: Through a program at my high school, I was able to start earning college credits as early as my junior year of high school. Many of my friends also took AP tests at the end of our junior year to exempt them from entry level college courses such as math, science, English, and history.

These courses can be some of the most difficult—or dullest—classes at a university, so try to get as many of them out of the way as possible.

3. Meet college admissions representatives: Many college admissions representatives are eager to get to know potential students, so make sure to get acquainted with them early. Chances are, there is a specific person assigned to your region or high school, and building a relationship with this person can help you—sometimes in ways you might not expect.

Not only can they be a resource if you have any questions about the university, but, for one of my friends, her admissions rep helped her to get extra attention and scholarship money. Start to get to know this person early to take full advantage of his or her help.