School is in full swing and for many of you, this marks the beginning of arguably one of the most important years of high school – junior year. But don’t panic! There are many things you can think about to ensure that junior year is a success and you are well-prepared to begin your college applications once senior year rolls around.

Keep up the hard work! As a junior, you’re likely taking your most challenging and work-intensive curriculum to date. The homework and exams may seem tedious, but will help in the long-run to better prepare you for your college-level coursework. Those Honors, AP and IB courses mean more hours studying, but will pay off with potential college credit and look great on your applications. If your school doesn’t offer these college-level classes, consider taking them online through websites such as EdX/Coursera or at a local community college. Also, start to get to know your teachers a bit more – your relationships may lead to a great letter of recommendation next year!

Build your school list. Junior year is the perfect time to get ahead and start researching colleges. Begin by considering what you might like (or not like) in a college such as size, climate, academic programs, etc. Meet with the admissions representatives who visit your school – these may be the people who end up reading your application! A balanced school list will typically contain six to ten colleges, with a mix of one to two “safety” schools, four to six “match” schools, and one to two “reach” schools.

Start testing. As you are building your college list, you should take note of the standardized testing requirements of each school. If you haven’t already, taking the PSAT in October is a great way to familiarize yourself with the concepts and format of the SAT. You should also consider taking a full-length practice test of the ACT to find out which exam might better fit your skills. Highly selective universities may also require two or three SAT Subject Tests, although this requirement is often waived if you submit the ACT. While many schools are not requiring current seniors to submit their standardized test scores, we recommend that you take either the SAT or ACT if a testing site is open and accessible to you.

Schedule “virtual” college visits. Whether it’s an information session or video tour of campus, begin spending time at the colleges on your list. Typically, this is when students will visit colleges in person, but many schools are still closed for all admission-related visits, so make sure you do your research. If the schools you are interested in are taking visitors, then it is encouraged to see the campus. The more time you spend on campus, the more you can begin visualizing your life there for four years!

About the author
Kyle Cortley

Kyle received a BS from Vanderbilt University and a certificate in college advising from Columbia University. Kyle has more than five years of admissions experience, including at the State University of New York as well as Rice University, where she was an Assistant Director of Admissions and oversaw the BS/MD program with Baylor College of Medicine. Kyle manages a caseload of clients as well as a team of AcceptU counselors. She is an IECA Associate Member.

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