Student News

September College Prep Checklist for High School Juniors

Class of 2025: Find out the five things you should focus on with this preparing for college checklist.

Shawna Newman

August 30, 2023

September College Prep Checklist for High School Juniors
Talk with your family about your college budget so that everyone is on the same page.
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!

College Planning Checklist for High School Juniors

Here are some suggestions of what high school juniors can work on to help move along their preparing for college checklist this September:

Start your college search.

This year there’s so much to do! This includes evaluating different college options, attending 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. Consider these categories: Majors and minors that interest you. Even if you don’t know your intended major in high school, you can at least look at their offerings to be sure there are fields of study that interest you. Generous merit and financial aid packages. Check the college’s merit and financial aid stats. How many students receive help and what do the average scholarship and financial aid packages look like?
College costs that fit your family’s budget. You can use a Net Cost Calculator to get an estimate of how much each school will cost you. Do this for every institution you’re interested in and compare how much it will cost you. Successful student outcomes. Student outcomes refer to what students do after graduation. You can determine whether a college prepares its students by viewing their graduate rate as well as career services offerings. Extracurriculars and student organizations that interest you. College is more than just going to class. Oftentimes, the experience outside of the classroom shapes you just as much as your coursework. Be sure there is a vibrant student life on campus.
Overall good vibe – a place that makes you feel like you belong. Choosing a college oftentimes boils down to a gut feeling. Will you feel seen and known on a small campus? Or will you thrive in the busy bustle of a large university?

Register to take the SAT/ACT exams.

Once you’ve created your college choices list, look to see how many have paused ACT/SAT admission requirements. If you do plan to take either test, now is the time to sign up for ACT and SAT prep courses. These are oftentimes hosted by schools or community centers on the weekends. You should also talk to your school counselor about taking courses that will help you prepare for the exam. For instance, an Etymology course may help with the Language and Reading sections on the exams. Finally, talk to your school counselor about registering to take the exams. It has been proven that students perform better on their second or third time taking the test. With that, it’s best to begin registering and taking these exams during junior year.

Schedule as many college visits as possible.

The best way to see a college is to visit in person. You can experience each college from a variety of perspectives: Plan on overnight visit. If you want to get a full student experience at a college, you must do an overnight visit. You’ll stay with a student ambassador and attend classes, sleep in their dorm, and complete a full itinerary that includes any – or all – below. Try the dining hall food. Make sure you love the food at your future home. Try one, or a few, of the dining options on campus. This includes coffee shops and snack kiosks. Shadow a student for a day. If you don’t have time to do an overnight visit, consider shadowing a student. Much like the overnight experience, you’ll follow a student around for a day, one who is most likely studying in your intended field. Check out a college club or two. Want to continue singing in choir? Or have a desire to play an intramural sport? You can sit in on a practice or attend a game. Just ask an admission officer. Sit in on a class. You’re going to college to major in an academic field, remember? For that reason, you must sit in on a class while you visit. Meet students and faculty from your prospective field of study. In addition to sitting in on a class, you can also meet with a professor, teacher’s assistant (TA) or student. During your meeting, they can tell you about course options and you can ask questions that you may have. Visit at different times. If there is a college or two that you’re especially interested in, consider visiting multiple times. A visit during the fall, when most colleges are at their finest, will look different than a visit in winter or early spring. Head off campus. Finally, while you’re there to see a college, it may help to explore outside of campus. After all, this could become your home away from home. Get to know where you may be eating, shopping, and exploring when you’re not in the dorms, library, or lecture halls.

Start out - and stay - in great academic shape.

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. As you know, your high school grades matter and any slip up is difficult to recover from, especially in terms of your cumulative GPA. It's not impossible to recover from a slump, but why give yourself the extra anxiety?

Start evaluating how you’ll pay for school.

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. You can finance your education with the below options: Scholarships and Grants 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. Financial Aid There is only one way to qualify for financial aid: you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form becomes available during your senior year, but it will be so helpful to you to become educated on the process of applying before the form launches. Student Loans Oftentimes, after students receive their financial aid packages, they’ll find that there is a gap between what the college costs and what they can afford to pay. Student loans help to bridge that gap. College Savings Whether your parents started saving at your birth or you’re just starting now, a dollar saved now is one less dollar you’ll have to borrow to pay for your education. Start by opening a 529 College Savings Plan. Part-Time Jobs and Internships You can utilize paychecks from your part-time jobs and internships to pay tuition. Some employers even offer tuition reimbursement, which means they’ll cover a portion of your tuition costs while you work for them. Education Tax Benefits Finally, students can qualify for the following education tax benefits: 1. Lifetime Learning Tax Credit – Up to $2,000 per year can be claimed for being enrolled in any continuing education courses or programs. This ranges from PhD programs to career development courses. 2. American Opportunity Tax Credit – Up to $2,500 can be claimed for up to four years by students seeking a degree, certification, or other recognized credential.

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