Juniors: How to Approach the Next Two Years

If your sophomore year was disrupted by Covid-19, you might have mixed feelings about your junior year. Even under the best of circumstances, junior year can be grueling. The added challenges of a pandemic won’t make things any easier.

We’ve put together some tips to help you get through junior year in the midst of coronavirus.


First things first: neither you nor anyone else can control the pandemic. Since it’s out of your hands, try not to stress about lost opportunities. It’s likely that you won’t be able to check off the items you might have had on your junior year to do list—but if that’s the case, everyone else will be in the same boat.


We all hope that life gets back to normal soon, but we need to be prepared for the very real possibility that it won’t. Many of you will start the school year off in front of a computer; hopefully, you’ll be back in the classroom before the year is out, but be prepared to go digital for the long-haul. Some of you will start the school year back in the classroom; enjoy the return to civilization, stay safe, and be prepared for a likely return to digital learning.


Many colleges offer online dual enrollment options that may be particularly attractive when things like AP and IB exams are up in the air. Online learning opportunities—even unofficial ones like MOOCs—can help you demonstrate your intellectual curiosity to colleges.


The school newspaper may be out of print, but there are dozens of blogging platforms where you can showcase your writing. Your dance troupe won’t be putting on any shows, but a camera and a tripod can still capture your moves. When you can’t count on your official extracurricular activities to help you shine, you have to find your own ways to highlight how awesome you are.


Being trapped at home doesn’t necessarily mean that your group activities are over. With a little bit of tech savvy and some out-of-the-box thinking, you can take your extracurriculars online. Are you on the debate team? Take the lead in moving debate practices online. Talk to your coach about trying to get other schools to do debate competitions online. Not only will you get to continue your chosen activity, but you’ll also have a great leadership experience to include on your college apps.


Under normal circumstances, we’d recommend that you visit some college campuses during your junior year. Given the pandemic, many colleges will not have their campuses open to tours. But don’t cross campus visits off your to do list! Most colleges have increased their virtual tour options, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t tour dozens of campuses from the comfort of your couch. Once you have some top choices, ask the admissions office to put you in touch with current students and faculty so that you can ask questions and learn more about campus life.


Many schools have temporarily gone test optional, with at least some of them extending test optional policies into 2022. This relieves some of the stress for those students applying to schools with test optional policies, but remember that a strong SAT or ACT score is an asset to your application even when applying to a test optional school. Especially at highly selective schools, many applicants will be submitting competitive test scores—we wouldn’t recommend forgoing test prep altogether.

A quick note about the PSAT/NMSQT: The College Board has not yet announced changes to PSAT testing for 2020. As juniors, the PSAT offers the opportunity to compete for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship. Make sure to start your PSAT prep now so that you can be competitive this fall. Check out our PSAT guide for more info.


There are a lot of unknowns about how college admissions will play out by the time you submit your applications, but one thing is for sure: your courses and grades will be more important than ever. Since everything from standardized tests to extracurriculars is up in the air, colleges will examine your academic performance particularly closely, so make sure that you take challenging courses and get great grades this year.

  • Assume that you may need to do digital learning for at least part of the school year, even if your school is starting off in the classroom this fall.
  • Look back at the end of last school year—how did you cope with digital learning? What were your biggest challenges, and what can you do to overcome them? Plan ahead and make sure you have the support you need to excel in a digital environment.
  • Do you feel like you fell behind last semester? The longer you wait to try to catch up, the harder it will be to get ahead. Contact classmates, teachers, or tutors to help you master the concepts you struggled with last year so that you start this year ready to excel.


Remember: you’re not alone. When you apply to college, your fellow applicants will have faced many of the same challenges that you are facing, from digital learning to cancelled test dates to interrupted extracurriculars. Colleges will take the current circumstances into consideration. Do your best to shine in the face of challenges, and you’ll be set for success in your college applications.


Welcome to high school! Bookmark this post and check back when you’re a Junior.

Hello, sophomores! Bookmark this post and check back when you’re a Junior.
  • Plan out your college roadmap over the next two years. Pay special attention to grades, standardized tests, and extracurriculars and plan how you’ll handle each.
  • Also keep course rigor in mind, particularly as you pick your remaining high school classes.
  • Refine your college list and get a good mix of safety, target, and dream schools. Also get familiar with each school’s current policies regarding standardized tests and other application factors.
  • Register for the SAT or ACT this fall and get good test prep underway.
Check out our article for SENIORS!