Junior year of high school is scary for three big reasons:
- In a year or less, you’ll be applying to college.
- This year is the most important year academically because it will be the most recent year worth of grades that colleges will see.
- This will also probably be the busiest and hardest of your high school years.
There’s a lot to get done this year to position yourself for a successful college application season, so buckle up and let’s get going!
Junior Year Grades and Course Rigor
Colleges want to see what you’re capable of. As the last full school year before college applications are due, junior year is going to show colleges your current academic skills. No pressure of anything, but getting really good grades in challenging classes is even more important now than it was during your sophomore or freshman years.
Keep a close eye on your grades. It’s a lot easier to fix a problem if you’re proactive about it than to try to dig yourself out of a deep hole at the end of the semester.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
- Your teachers are there to make sure you succeed. If you don’t understand something or if you’re struggling to pick up a new skill, ask your teacher if he or she offers help sessions before or after school.
- You probably have some classmates who are doing really well in the class you’re struggling with. See if you can organize a study group to help you keep up in class.
- Look for a good subject tutor to help you catch up and get ahead. Contact your local C2 Education center to learn how our expert tutors can help you succeed in class.
If you haven’t already considered which classes you want to take as a senior, now’s the time. You’ll need to make sure that you’re on track to meet all graduation requirements.
Learn more about how college admissions officers look at grades.
Find out what college admissions officers learn from your class choices.
Take the PSAT/NMSQT
In October, you’ll have the opportunity to take the PSAT/NMSQT, a preliminary SAT that acts as the qualifying test for the coveted National Merit Scholarship. It certainly doesn’t hurt for you to prepare for and take the PSAT—the test is nearly identical to the SAT, so it’s great practice! And although only 1% of test-takers will ultimately win the National Merit Scholarship, many more will be identified as Semifinalists or Commended Students, and such distinction is a great honor to put on college applications.
Check out our Complete PSAT Guide.
You probably already have a dream school in mind—and that’s great!—but you need to look into a variety of other schools and generate a solid list of safety schools, target schools, and reach schools. The sooner you finalize the list of colleges you want to apply to, the sooner you’ll know exactly what you need to do to get in. How much do you need to boost your SAT or ACT scores by? Which, if any, Subject Tests do you need to take? How many essays will you have to right? How many recommendation letters will you need to ask for?
Learn more about why EVERY student needs to apply to safety schools.
Find out how to choose safety, target, and reach schools.
SAT Subject Tests and AP Exams
If you’re taking any AP classes junior year, you’ll need to pencil in time to prep for the end of course AP exams. Good scores on AP exams give you the opportunity to earn college credit for your high school coursework, so it’s definitely worth the time and effort to prep for these rigorous exams.
Bonus: prepping for AP exams helps you kill two birds with one stone because the same material on the AP exam will be covered by the corresponding SAT Subject Test. If you’ve already figured out which schools you want to apply to, you’re ahead of the game: you know exactly which SAT Subject Tests your chosen colleges recommend or require.
Time for SAT or ACT Prep
If you haven’t already, it’s time to start prepping for the SAT and/or ACT. Depending on your college application deadlines, you’ll have a limited number of chances to reach your score goals. The sooner you start SAT or ACT prep, the more opportunities you have to meet your goal and the higher your ultimate score will be.
Look for Leadership Opportunities
If freshman year was about exploring your extracurricular options and sophomore year was about narrowing down your focus, junior year is about diving headlong into the extracurricular activities you’re most passionate about. Colleges look for students who follow through on the things that interest them, and one of the best ways to demonstrate that is to strive for leadership roles in your extracurricular activities. If these roles aren’t available to you as a junior, work toward leadership positions for next year (it’ll still go on your applications!) by staying active in the clubs, teams, or groups you’re involved in.
Summer: Stay Busy
Senior year is just around the corner—the end is in sight. Don’t let up during the summer because there’s still plenty to do:
- Summer SAT or ACT prep
- Take the summer SAT or ACT to try to finalize your scores
- Start your college essays
- Visit college campuses
You’ll be filling out those applications before you know it!