Junior year of high school can be an intense academic period, and many students get stressed about the thought of applying to colleges in the fall. However, there are many things that juniors can do to get a head start on their college applications.
"With the right preparation and college plan, applying to college in the fall of senior year doesn't have to be as stressful," says Jessica Colt, counselor at Our Lady Academy of Peace in San Diego, Calif.
Students can start on the following activities to help jump-start the college application process:
Some high schools have special programs in the summer before senior year to help prepare students for fall college application season.
"One successful program my school has adopted is offering week-long intense college application bootcamps in the summer after junior year which prep our rising seniors very well for the following fall semester," explains Colt. "We have them research all the types of applications, write drafts of essays, fill out their letter of recommendation brag packets, and finalize their college lists. The more work students can do prior to senior year, the smoother, more focused, and less anxiety-provoking senior year will be."
Even if your school does not offer this kind of "jumpstart" program, you can still do these activities on your own during the spring of junior year or over the summer before senior year.
Academically, 11th grade can be the most important year, and students should really focus on getting the best grades possible.
"Colleges are looking at junior year quite closely because that is the final year students will have completed in high school prior to applying to college," explains Melanie Talesnick, a former high school counselor and founder of Admit U Consulting in Livingston, N.J. "So if you need to form better study groups, now is the time; if you need to connect with your teachers for more assistance, don't wait any longer ... And this will also benefit students when they are looking for teacher letters of recommendation."
Although junior year is extremely important, students should not lose steam during senior year. As juniors, they should still plan on which academically rigorous courses they will take in 12th grade.
"Junior year isn't about saying, 'Yes, I've finally made it through the worst part!' It's also about the courses you plan to take next year," Talesnick says. "Remember, those classes are on your transcript, so it's important to maintain the same rigor or even add some rigor as a senior ... It's also important to have at least five academic courses. The 'S' in senior year, isn't for 'slacking' or 'senioritis.'"
High school juniors should make an appointment with their school counselors to discuss college goals.
"When counselors have caseloads in the 300 to 400 student range, it's difficult to get to know every student ... It's important to let them know your goals, aspirations, activities and overall thoughts about the college process. I would also suggest developing a resume/activity sheet to give to your counselor so that they know more about you and your involvement outside of the regular school day," says Talesnick.
Ultimately, getting some legwork done junior year — while maintaining good grades — can go a long way to help ease the stress that senior year will bring and make the college application process more enjoyable overall.
We'd love to hear your college readiness tips for HS juniors. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!
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