Critical Activities for College-Bound High-School Juniors
What are the critical activities that a high-school junior should be doing during the year to best maximize his or her college planning?
The junior year is all about maximizing efforts toward attaining good grades (in challenging courses) and achieving the highest scores possible on the standardized tests. Thinking about your future — including career choices — is an important assessment for juniors. Finally, researching colleges is critical.
[Editor’s Note: See also our article, High-School Junior-Year Timetable and Planning Calendar.]
Here are the answers to this question from each member of our panel:
Joyce Lantz, Valparaiso University
A high school junior should rededicate him/herself to getting great grades. The junior year is very important to most admission committees. Keep studying!
In addition, students should discuss PSAT/PACT results with their guidance counselors. They should determine their strengths and weaknesses and prepare for the SAT and/or ACT.
If they haven’t already, juniors should start checking out college websites to create a list of colleges and universities to investigate. And, they should develop a list of questions to ask while investigating.
Many students develop short list of colleges by Thanksgiving of their junior year. When creating a short list of schools, it’s important to attend regional college fairs and receptions. In addition, students should take advantage of college admission counselors that may be visiting their high school.
Finally, juniors should visit the schools on their short list. They should take campus tours, talk with admission counselors, and meet faculty and other administrators. This is their opportunity to see first-hand if a school is a good match for what they are looking for.
Terry E. Whittum, Stetson University
The junior year is often the last full year of course work the admissions committee sees before making a decision so your grades your junior year are very important. You should be taking as challenging class as you can and it goes without saying that you should do your best in the classroom. The junior year is also when you should take the SAT and/or the ACT in earnest. I recommend taking the exams twice your junior year and then once your senior year.
This is the year your college selection process gets serious. By now you should have your list of schools down to 5 to 10. Gather as much information as you can from each school, look for opportunities to talk with students who attend these schools (perhaps your high school sponsors a visit day when last year’s seniors come back during the holidays to meet with current students) and, most important, visit as many schools as you can. The campus visit is the most important step in the college selection process.
Eric Kaplan, Lehigh University
One of the most important activities for high school juniors is to engage in a self-assessment. Which academic areas do you prefer? What are you curious about? What kind of setting do you see as ideal for you? Do you have preferences about the size of the institution that you’d like to attend? Are there other important attributes (religion, gender, geography)? Once these questions are answered, research institutions that match your criteria and academic profile. Then, if possible, visit two or three schools (virtually or ideally by going to campus). Also visit two or three other schools that are not on this list. Take quick notes after each visit about your impressions. Compare the notes to the schools that are on your list. What did you like about certain campuses? Are there things that surprised you? What didn’t you like? Also, assess the schools that were not on your list using the same set of questions. Make adjustments accordingly and continue your research.
Dr. Brian Sajko, Eureka College
I encourage students to contact the schools they plan on or dream of attending and simply ask “What do I need to do to get into your school?” Besides this — don’t limit yourself or your choices!! Grades are, indeed, important as they (along with standardized testing) are important pieces of the college admissions process. So, work hard in classes and become involved in different activities. Go online and check out schools!
Eric W. Fulcomer, Ph.D., Bluffton University
First, I would encourage students to focus on their grades. Academic performance is the primary consideration for college admission and a major factor in scholarship consideration. I would also encourage students to start visiting colleges and researching college options on the internet. It is also important to take the ACT or SAT in the spring of the junior year. Most colleges will accept the student’s highest test score, so taking it early will allow for retakes during the senior year.
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