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Planning for College as a High School Junior: Month-by-Month Guide

Plan on using each month of the school year to get ahead of the college admissions process.

Shawna Newman

July 08, 2021

Keep your junior year of high school moving in the right, college-bound, direction with a list of monthly tasks.
Planning for College as a High School Junior: Month-by-Month Guide
Officially part of the Class of 2023, you’re wrapping up high school. Eleventh grade is an important year; there’s plenty to do each semester to stay on track to college. Juniors should plan on using each month of the school year to get ahead of the college admissions process. You’ll be thankful you did when you’re a senior. We’ve created a month-by-month guide designed to keep you organized and on top of the journey to college. Use this guide to keep you aware of what you should be doing in the months ahead. Consider revisiting this monthly and working with your high school counselor to “check-in” on your college bound status.
Another helpful tip for the Class of 2023 is to place quick reminders from this guide in your phone calendar. Doing this will ensure that you don’t overlook a checklist task. You don’t want to be playing catch-up over your winter or spring breaks.

August

  • Begin discussing your college plans with your high school counselor. Developing this relationship will help you two establish the best plan of action.
  • Start researching colleges. You can find unique and fun ways to do your research, such as following your favorite colleges on TikTok, Instagram or other social platforms.
  • Think about the advantages to taking your ACT or SAT as a high school junior and develop study routines for these tests.
  • September

  • Make a list of your top-choice colleges. Consider creating a working document of each college or university on your list. Use this to take notes or list questions you may have about this college.
  • Ask yourself what you’d like to be when you grow up. Write down what careers interest you. Keep your mind open and explore career ideas that fit your personality. Many high school counselors have tools to help you find career possibilities that work with your likes and interests.
  • Find and enroll in virtual tours of colleges and universities that interest you.
  • Have a conversation with your parents or caregivers to discuss how you’ll pay for school. Be sure you’re applying for at least four scholarships per month via Fastweb!
  • October

  • Get involved in extracurricular activities, such as clubs or sports teams. Consider taking on a leadership role in one of these too
  • Start yourself an official Brag Sheet document. It will serve as your student resume and help you to remember all the volunteer work and activities you’re involved in. You can also use this to find gaps or opportunities to enhance yourself academically and personally.
  • Stay focused in your studies and keep your grades up. If you’re having troubles, reach out to your teacher or an advisor.
  • Keep applying for those scholarships!
  • November

  • Schedule a time to meet with your counselor this month. Discuss the careers you’re thinking about and the list of colleges and universities that you’re interested in so far.
  • Ask your counselor about upcoming college fairs and/or if there are college admissions officers visiting your school soon.
  • Create a standardized testing plan. Register for AP Exams if you’re enrolled in AP courses this school year.
  • December

  • Use your winter break to do more college research and to take notes in your college planner or binder if you have one. If not, consider creating one to house all of your college research, college brochures or viewbooks you may get in the mail.
  • Use your free time to volunteer within your local community. You can use these experiences to add to your student profile, Brag Sheet, or college admissions essays in the future.
  • Prep and schedule for the ACT or SAT if you plan on taking these standardized tests.
  • Use your winter break to fit in a few more scholarship applications this month.
  • January

  • Save any impressive essays or academic achievements in a special place. Use these accomplishments to update your student Brag Sheet.
  • Focus on narrowing down your future career choices. Consider job shadowing someone in the industry you’re interested in or picking up a part-time job in a related field. These experiences can help you determine what works with your personality.
  • Update your Fastweb student profile with any changes or achievements you’ve accomplished in your first semester as a high school junior. This includes joining any clubs, organizations or sports teams.
  • Register for any February standardized tests, if you’re taking this testing approach.
  • If you’re considering joining the military or enrolling in a military academy you’ll want to begin this process your junior summer. If this is something that intrigues you, schedule an appointment with your school counselor or military recruiter to see how they can help you.
  • If you’ve taken AP courses, discuss your school’s AP Exam registration dates. Taking these AP tests can help you earn college credit and shows colleges you’re a motivated student.
  • February

  • Discuss and research financial aid options with your parents and counselor. Begin to think about how you’ll be paying for college and create a plan.
  • Begin to think about what teachers and mentors you’d like to use in your letters of recommendation. Continue to connect with these people and let them know your accomplishments and college plans.
  • List out connections and professionals from career fields you’re interested in. Consider setting up a time to for a job shadow or letting them know you’d be interested in a summer, part-time job or internship if they have any.
  • Begin discussing your proposed senior year classes with your high school counselor. Find subject area holes, or courses that you should take to boost your GPA. See what AP courses are offered your senior year and determine if they’re right for you. Planning your senior year class schedule in advance will save you from any surprises later.
  • March

  • If you have not already, schedule in-person or virtual college tours. Sign up ahead and place these dates on your calendar to ensure they happen. Use this experience to narrow down your college-choice list.
  • Let the teachers you’d like to write your letters of recommendation know you’d appreciate their help. This gives them more prep time, before the rush of your senior year!
  • Apply for as many scholarships as you can now. Your senior year will be very busy; your 11th grade year is the time to squeeze in a few extra scholarship apps and/or apply for those essay scholarships.
  • April

  • Consider costs when narrowing down your college search. Find out the tuition and other fees required to attend your top colleges. Do these college and universities tend to offer generous financial aid packages? This is a smart way to narrow down your list.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of your college list with your family and/or counselor. They can provide outsider input or suggestions you may have not considered.
  • May

  • Nail down your summer plans. Consider a part-time job, or volunteer work in your community. Adding these experiences to your brag sheet (also known as, your student resume) will impress college admission teams and give you real examples to discuss in admissions interviews or in essays.
  • Find out what the application process looks like for the colleges you’re interested in. Begin practicing with college essay drafts and creating a list of items you’ll need to complete these college applications.
  • Group your choice colleges into segments. Such as those you know you’ll get into with no problem, challenging and reach schools (these tend to be any Ivy League schools).
  • June

  • Create a list of must-haves in your college choices. For instance, consider areas of study as well as clubs, organizations and social life. Use this as an approach to find the best fit.
  • Gain work experience; find a part-time job or summer internship for high school students.
  • Connect with students at the colleges you’re interested in attending. You can find some student experiences via YouTube.
  • July

  • Use your free time this summer to apply for scholarships. Make it a habit by setting a weekly summertime goal!
  • Connect with students taking the same AP courses as you will your junior year.
  • Start your back-to-school shopping!
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