Student News

September College-Prep Checklist for High School Juniors

Talk with your family about your college budget so that everyone is on the same page.

Shawna Newman

August 30, 2021

Class of 2023: Find out the five things you should focus on this September to help you prepare for college.
September College-Prep Checklist for High School Juniors
Summer is over and a new semester has arrived. So, you're probably wondering: What should I be doing to prepare for college Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Here are some suggestions of what high school juniors can work on to help move along their college search process this September:

  1. Start your college search.
  2. This year there’s so much to do! And the Class of 2023 will need to be flexible (don’t worry the seniors will too) as college-prep and admissions is adjusting to the impact of COVID. This includes evaluating different college options, attending virtual college fairs, exploring new schools and creating your top-colleges list. Once you’ve created a list, work on ordering your list and narrowing it down by prioritizing it. You can do this by comparing your list to criteria you’re looking for in a college and seeing which colleges on your list match up to your criteria.
    Then cross off colleges that don’t meet your criteria and bump up colleges that meet all or most of your needs.

  3. Register to take or re-take the SAT/ACT exams.
  4. If you haven’t heard, many colleges have gone test optional due to the Coronavirus pandemic. According to, more than 1,675 4-year colleges are not requiring SAT/ACT test scores for the 2021-22 admission season. While high school juniors are not on this admissions cycle, this could be a glimpse into the future requirements for colleges in the U.S.
    Once you’ve created your college choices list, look to see how many have paused ACT/SAT admission requirements. Consider this, as you’re deciding whether or not to test or re-test. If you’re a strong tester, having high scores may help you land institutional scholarships. If you’re a stronger student in other areas, you may want to consider taking fewer SAT/ACT exams or practice exams your junior year of high school—at least until the nation has a better forecast on the future of standardized testing. Be sure to work with your high school counselor to create the best plan of action. Finding a test center to take your standardized exam is also not as easy as it once was. You can still sign up for online test-prep courses, get a virtual tutor or even practice questions online for free!

  5. Schedule as many college virtual visits as possible.
  6. Campuses are so beautiful in the fall, but this year you’ll have admire campus beauty from photographs. Make a list of colleges you'd like to virtually visit. Since you won’t have to travel, you can make it a fun event at home with your parents! Whether you're just starting out the college search or narrowing down your list, visiting a college is vital to the admissions process. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is offering several virtual college fair events, beginning September 12 through November 14. Find a NACAC virtual college fair that works for both you and your family. Work together as a family to schedule virtual visits this fall. Schedule them throughout the next few months and be sure to make it official by putting the dates into your Google calendar and inviting those you’d like to join you. This way it’s a thing, and you don’t forget! Grab the popcorn and gather a few seats around your desk at home. Helpful Tip: Now’s the time to create your own college research binder. Divide it up by college. Include sleeves to place any college admissions pieces you get by mail and include loose-leaf paper within each college category. Prep for your virtual college tour with a list of questions to ask. As you take a virtual tour of each college write down your top five likes and dislikes. Also include a section with questions you and/or your parents would like to ask an admissions counselor (hopefully, you can visit these in-person Spring 2022). You’ll feel better prepared and more comfortable with your final college decision this way!

  7. Start out - and stay in - great academic shape.
  8. Your junior year grades are what colleges look at so you’ll want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward – academically speaking. Make a strategy on how you’ll approach this semester - and follow it. A strict semester game plan helps ensure you’ll stay focused on achieving your best. This year consider how you’ll handle your classes and stay connected if your school district has to move online. If you have a friend that graduated high school in 2021, ask them if they have any helpful tips to get you through the school year. It was an important year for them; they’re likely to have some great ideas and lessons learned to keep you on track and help you pivot! As you know, your high school grades matter and any slip up is really difficult to recover from, especially in terms of your cumulative grade point average. It's not impossible to recover from a slump, but why give yourself the extra anxiety? If you stay on top of your grades, you won't have even more pressure than you already do!

  9. Start evaluating how you’ll pay for school.
  10. If you start applying for scholarships now, it will be A WHOLE LOT easier to pay for school later! You’re expected to pay back any student debt or student loans you take on in college. But, the awesome news is—you don’t have to pay back scholarships!!!! Begin by organizing your scholarship search, then apply for as many scholarships as possible. Applying for scholarships your junior year will give you a HUGE head start. Talk with your family about your college budget so that everyone is on the same page and you can have specific financial aid goals in mind. Trust us, you’ll want to graduate college with little to no student debt. You do want to be realistic regarding your college choices and tuition prices, however, if you have your heart set on a specific school, you'll simply have to work a little harder to achieve the funding. Don't worry, any amount is possible to achieve with hard work and determination!

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