When you think of the eleventh grade, what comes to mind?
Probably a number a things. Things like academic pressure. Leadership positions. Standardized tests. College planning. And all while learning to drive!
Junior year of high school is an onslaught of responsibilities and activities, and seemingly never enough time to get everything done. Junior year is also considered the most important year of high school for college admissions. Amidst the nonstop flurry, it is important to recognize this significance and take the necessary steps to prepare you for your future. So, all you high school juniors (or soon-to-be juniors), read on to find out how to put yourself in prime position for college admissions.
1. End on a strong note
Junior year grades are one of the strongest indicators of your academic potential, and college admissions officers will examine your grades closely. Colleges look for either a record of consistent academic achievement or an upward trend in a student’s grades. End-of-junior-year grades provide valuable insight into your overall academic trajectory, so strive for the highest grades possible. Truly push yourself and devote the necessary amount of time required to master the concepts in your classes. Make use of any academic support your school or teachers provide. If you are still struggling, consider forming study groups with your peers or using online resources to maximize your efforts.
2. Continue to challenge yourself
As you plan your senior year class schedule, remember to maintain a rigorous academic course load. Colleges want to see you take advantage of the academic options available to you. The more you push yourself, the more you demonstrate your capacity to take risks and seek out growth. At the same time, be sure not to overload yourself by balancing out your core classes with electives that support your passions and/or future ambitions.
3. Know your counselor and teachers well
Many colleges require both counselor and teacher recommendations. If you have established positive relationships with them in advance of the application season, their letters of recommendation will have the personal touch necessary to help you stand out. If you haven’t done so already, set up a meeting with your counselor to discuss your academic future. To get a head start on the process, you may also consider asking your teachers to serve as your recommender before school lets out for the summer. Plant your seeds early, so they have enough time to sprout!
4. Create a resume
Having all of your activities documented in a central place allows you to conveniently showcase your extracurricular involvement. Not only will colleges ask for an activities list but potential summer programs or employers may also ask for one. A resume can also include accomplishments, awards, skills, languages spoken and more. Develop your resume today, expecting to update it as new developments occur in your life.
5. Map out your testing schedule
Junior year is ALL about testing. You take the PSAT in the fall, and AP/IB exams happen in the spring. The SAT/ACT looms and SAT Subject Tests beckon. Depending on your college ambitions, you made need to take only a couple of these tests or so many that you'll have a hard time keeping track of them. Mapping out your testing schedule will help you prepare for each one and give you a clear idea of all the necessary requirements to fulfill.
6. Apply to a summer program, job, or internship
The summer after junior year is an ideal time to pursue professional or enrichment opportunities. Consider a part-time job or a program/internship that may shed light on your career goals. These activities build character and will add another dimension to your college application. Begin the process of researching opportunities as soon as possible. The process of applying to a job or summer program also functions as a precursor to the process of applying to college.
7. Research colleges
There are thousands of colleges to which you can apply, but you will ultimately end up choosing just one. Narrowing down your choices and creating a college list that best fits you and your goals requires extensive research. Identify the specific criteria that you are looking for in a college and let that guide your selection process. Make note of any local college fairs, open houses, or college visits that fit into your schedule, and start getting on the radar of any colleges that interest you.
8. Sharpen reading comprehension and writing skills
Developing competent reading and writing skills will confer a number of immediate benefits. Your standardized test scores will improve across the board. Your academic and college application essays will shine more clearly. You will also be better equipped for your college freshman workload. Go beyond the instruction offered in your English classes and make a concerted effort to improve your reading and writing abilities through regular practice.
In general, this advice applies to all four years of high school, but they apply with extra force during junior year. If you follow these steps, you will enter the college application season well-prepared, reducing some of the stress that comes along with applying to college. This advice requires time, but if you actively incorporate it, you will establish a solid foundation for your future success.
Jon G. is originally from Houston, Texas. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and is currently one of the resident English gurus at Elite Prep Los Angeles. Nothing makes him more proud and pumped up than watching his students succeed. When it comes to hitting the books, Jon recommends starting early and studying in increments to avoid burnout. He's a huge basketball fan, loves green tea, and his favorite vocabulary word is "seditious."