High School Junior College Planning Checklist

From expectations to extracurriculars, not to mention big focus on college, junior year of high school can be intense.

Things flip into high gear during the third year of high school. There’s plenty of ACT and SAT prep, tougher classes, amped up social schedules and lots of talking and thinking about college. Staying organized, on task and on schedule is more important than ever.

This year is also essential when it comes to college admissions. While those offers will consider your entire transcript, they’re “likely to give the most attention to your junior year grades and curriculum,” notes My College Options. So, from types of courses to grades to extracurriculars, that means junior year is key.

Like your student is (hopefully!) learning, though, it can all be broken down into manageable steps. Our High School Junior College Planning Checklist is here to help you both divide and conquer — while still having fun.

Focus on rigorous courses

Again, this year really counts on that transcript, so be sure your student rises to the occasion and sticks with their studies. Encourage them to sign up for challenging courses, including Advanced Placement (AP) options, if they feel they can excel in them. Bonus: At the end of the year, they can test for college credit in that class.

Tackle the PSAT in the fall

Standardized college tests are full force this year. First up is the PSAT, which 11th graders take in October, College Board says. This is the one that can qualify teens for the National Merit Scholarship Program, depending scores, so be sure they sign up — and study up, too.

Take the reins in extracurriculars

Last year, your child reined in their activities. Now, it’s time to reign! In other words, they should focus on leadership positions in the clubs, teams, groups or service work they’ve stuck with.

Keep at that ‘me’ file or app

All your child’s accomplishments so far should be in one tidy spot. Continue to add those report cards, accolades, standout projects, letters of recommendation and more to the mix as college app time draws nearer

Whittle choices into lists

Now that your child is encountering more college options, it’s prime time to develop a list of potential colleges. Be sure they connect with their counselor. Plus, discuss the pros and cons of each school at home, too. Take a look at costs, the types of programs and degrees, proximity to home and other factors. Revisit it regularly; by the end of the year, finalize the top contenders and outline the differences between them, like financial packages and deadlines.

Take on the SAT and ACT

Have your student plan to prep for this pair of exams in fall and winter. Typically, several test dates roll out between February and July, CollegeVine notes, (remember that you’ll need to register in advance). So bust out those test guides and do that studying!

Meet with college reps

Have your child find out when college reps are visiting their school or area. College fairs are a great opportunity to ask questions and get a taste of the college’s culture and offerings. Again, the high school counselor is a great resource for pinning down dates and options.

Do a little application legwork

Have your student rifle through their “me” file and reflect on what’s in it. This greases the wheels for what they’ll write in their college essay next year (don’t forget, the name of the game is authenticity … not just rattling off accomplishments!). Plus, it’s a great jumping off point to start searching for scholarships. Get college applications for the next year, too.

Visit top contenders

Once the list of top college options is set, set aside time to go and actually tour the strongest possibilities. Nothing beats an IRL preview. Consider going over spring break or during summer vacation. Remember, if the school is farther away, have your child check with the guidance office about when reps from that college will be visiting the school or area to at least get an official first flavor.

Stick with summer staples

Besides visiting colleges during vacation, encourage your child to continue to volunteer or get involved with a summer program. If they haven’t so far, this is definitely the summer to start!

Note: Be sure to also explore our checklists for high school freshmen, sophomores and seniors.

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