Junior year is the most important year in the college planning process. Our guide to college planning for 11th graders provides you with an essential checklist needed to start navigating the college process, so you have your best shot at reaching your college goals.
1. Set Goals for Junior Year. Make sure to set both long term and short term academic, social and personal goals for the school year. Set up an effective study routine for yourself. Do take time out for rest and relaxation.
2. Take Rigorous Courses in Areas of Interest. The IECA 2020 nationwide survey on what colleges look for in high school students reports rigor of coursework and GPA as the top two factors for college admissions. Make sure to take AP/IB courses that challenge you in subjects that genuinely reflect your interests. Take Subject SAT and AP exams in subjects that are of interest to you and showcase your strengths. Choose electives that highlight academic interests. Balance your priorities for strong grades vs academic rigor, while keeping in mind academic commitments.
3. Narrow Down your extracurricular profile by committing to a couple of activities based on your interest and personality. Advance or gain leadership positions in activities already started. Start planning your job or volunteer work for the summer to deep dive into your interests. Make sure to do something different from your classmates that helps you stand out.
4. Start building your preliminary college list. Explore colleges for academic, social and financial fit. As many colleges are not yet open to having visitors on campus, start by looking at colleges websites. Do the virtual tours, attend student panel discussions, department specific tours. Follow the college on social media. CampusReel, YoUniversity TV are other websites to look at. Talk to alumni from your high school who are already at the colleges you are interested in to learn what it is really like to go there. Take notes on what are some of the things you like and don’t like about each of them. This way you will learn more about what you are looking for in a college.
5. Keep up your grades Junior year grades matter and are looked at by colleges while making college admission decisions. This is going to be the last full year of grades colleges will be looking at before making college decisions. GPA is considered one of the top two factors for college admissions! Also, doing exceptionally well academically increases your chances of receiving merit aid.
6. Develop a testing plan. Practice taking the SAT/ACT. Take a practice SAT and ACT test to see which one is more suitable for you. You can plan on taking the actual test Spring of Junior Year and retake it once more before senior year starts.
7. Work on essays the summer before Senior year Senior year is a very busy time with college applications to write, grades to keep up and extracurriculars to pursue. Giving yourself a head start on your essays will help greatly reduce stress.
8. Start saving for college Consider investing in a 529 Educational Saving Plan. There are tax benefits to this pre-paid tuition plan and every dollar you save is a dollar less you’ll need to borrow.
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