Preparing for College 101: High School Juniors

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High school is a time of transition as you’re making your way into adulthood and preparing for the future. To help guide you through this exciting, but sometimes stressful, time in your life, we’ve put together a “to do” list for each year of high school.

Now that you’re a junior, your college search should start getting more serious. You have a lot going on, from researching and visiting schools to preparing for the ACT and SAT. This guide will give you concrete advice to follow in order to ace this process.

Focus on learning

Your number one priority during your junior year should be to continue to work hard and get good grades. This year’s grades will be looked at closely by admissions committees because they’ll be the most recent grades on your transcript. Also keep in mind that your teachers from junior year will most likely be the ones you’ll ask for letters of recommendation.

Working hard goes beyond the classroom, so you should continue to stay involved with co-curricular activities. Try to seek leadership roles in school clubs or community organizations and plan to make the most of your summer with internships, programs, or volunteer experiences.

It’s also the year to take the SAT and/or the ACT. Be sure to check with the schools and programs you’re considering for their test requirements and recommended scores. To decide if the SAT or the ACT is right choice, check out our tips on finding the best standardized test for you.

Explore your options

Before you begin the college application process in your senior year, spend your junior year exploring the options available to you and spending time on college campuses. Visit different types of colleges (big, small, single sex, rural, urban, etc.) to get a feel for what might be a good fit. Use the list you created during your sophomore year about things you like and dislike about your high school and your community to guide your college search. If you’re having trouble getting started, check out our college search tips for high school juniors.

You can also begin to explore the different ways to pay for college. You have many options – scholarships, grants, loans. Learning more about each of these options can be a great place to start. There are many different scholarship search resources you can sign up for, like Fastweb,, and Student Scholarship Search.

Deadlines are another important thing to begin exploring. Although you won’t be submitting college applications until your senior year, making note of these deadlines and putting them on a college calendar will allow you to prepare accordingly. Some colleges you’re considering may have early decision programs or special scholarship deadlines, so be sure to note these on your calendar, too.

Use different resources

We understand you might feel overwhelmed by the number of colleges that interest you – you want to make an informed choice! Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for others’ advice and opinions. Check in with your school counselor about your academic standing and how it might impact your college search. Having a realistic idea of your academic profile can help you pick out colleges to target during your search.

There are also resources available to you on the college side. College admissions counselors, professors, alumni of the schools, current students, campus visits, college websites and social media, and admissions blogs (just like this one!) can all be strong sources of information.

Make time to relax

Lastly, in the midst of it all, try to find a minute to breathe. Junior year comes with stress and hard work, but it should also be a time filled with excitement and joy! While it’s important to stay involved in school and activities, it is equally necessary to take care of your mental and physical health by doing activities that you enjoy!

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