- Research standardized tests: think about taking the ACT or SAT this year. It’s important to consider taking standardized tests as a junior because the earlier you take them, the more chances you’ll have to study more and retake, if necessary. Look at the colleges you’re interested and see if they prefer one test over the other. Another standardized test strategy that some students embrace is to take both tests during the junior year. Typically, you perform better on one over the other. Once you know which test shows off the best of your abilities, you can focus your energy and time into studying for that particular exam and retaking to increase your scores. Once you’ve decided on your exam, you can begin to prepare by signing up and participating in practice exams, test prep courses, utilizing free online resources or even practicing questions on study apps.
- Consider signing up for AP classes this coming semester. If you’re able to handle them, AP or IB courses will look great on your college applications and your student transcript. This year, consider speaking with your counselors and teachers to discuss whether taking on an advanced course or two would be a good idea for you. Some high schools have a plethora of advanced class options while others are very limited. Don’t load up on IB or AP courses just because you feel that it will look better. Take advanced classes in those subject areas that you already excel in. Finally, as you consider AP or IB courses, do some research on the exams that take place in the spring. If you are able to score high on these exams, some colleges will actually accept your coursework and test scores as college credit, which could save you some money in the long run.
- Apply for scholarships. It’s important to remain diligent in your scholarship search, even with the busyness of your upcoming junior year of high school. Continue the practice of applying for as many scholarships as you qualify for. If you haven’t already, commit to applying to 1-2 scholarships per week. Update your Fastweb profile frequently and check your Scholarship Matches on a weekly basis. Also be on the lookout for major-specific, year-specific scholarship articles from Fastweb. These informative pieces will enable you to find scholarship opportunities that interest you as well.
Plan to attend college fairs when applicable.You’ll soon learn that attending college fairs is efficient in a multitude of ways: you’re basically able to cram several mini-college visits into a short span of time. At these fairs, you learn a lot of information about the college and whether or not it should be on your list of considerations. Additionally, you may even be exposed to new schools that you would not have looked at on your own! Each college fair booth is manned by an admission officer, so you can get a first-hand experience of each college that goes above and beyond what a college website could offer. These fairs are definitely worthwhile for students embarking upon the college process. Look up some local fairs near you. They will likely start in the fall, but you can start registering and adding dates to your calendar now.
- Start researching colleges of interest. You’re still early into the college process, but it’s never too early to begin looking into colleges that interest you. As you research schools, try to take note of what types of aspects you like or dislike in a particular school. Doing so will help you target what is most important to you in a college. Now is the time to check out websites, take virtual tours, and get on mailing lists. Indicating your interest now will also look good when your college application is submitted. Admissions officers may recognize your name from emails, college fairs, or face-to-face visits. They’ll know you’ve been interested in their school for some time, which could be just one more reason to admit you when the time comes.
- Talk with your parents now about who is paying for college. Many families hold off on this talk until senior year, when applications are being submitted or when financial aid packages begin to arrive. That timing is too late. Having the conversation around who is paying for college now will set clear boundaries and expectations for later. It also gives students and their parents time to save if necessary. Additionally, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, will be looking at finances from this particular school year. With that in mind, there are ways to maximize aid eligibility, which could result in more financial aid.
Congratulations, you’ll soon become an upperclassman! Soon, you’ll start investigating colleges, take your standardized exams and ask for recommendation letters from your teachers. It’s more important, now than ever, to remember that the more organized you are in your studies and the college admissions process, the more you’ll be able to enjoy every moment as an upperclassman in high school. Here’s a checklist for the month of July for soon-to-be high school juniors prepare for the upcoming year, in terms of your college search and planning processes:
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