Junior year of high school marks a turning point in the college admissions process. It’s a year filled with milestones like researching colleges, developing teacher relationships and visiting campuses. And, by the way, did I forget to mention testing? Yes, ACT or SAT testing takes up a big chunk of junior year for college-bound teens.

The academic workload in 11th grade is usually kicked up a notch or two, as well. By this time, juniors may have started to ask themselves questions like, “What is next?” and “Am I on the right track?” Friends and family also start to question, “Where do you want to go to college?” Especially for a junior who is not so sure what to say about their  college prospects, junior year can be a bit of a pressure cooker.

Tips for college-bound high school Juniors

The following tips will help juniors (and their parents) make the most of the year as they prepare for college:

  1. Take challenging courses

Colleges want to see that students challenged themselves during high school. Every student is different so a challenging course to one junior may be an easy course to another. At the same time, juniors may want to maintain a balance, which means taking a mix of courses that allow being challenged and doing their best.

  1. Research Colleges

When I say “research” colleges, I’m referring to a thorough, consistent gathering of information on different colleges that could be a good fit. Juniors can gather information from college websites, books, directories, and other resources. The goal is to learn about each college at a deeper level. I provide my students with a Compass CollegeResearch Checklist to keep them focused and productive. (If you’d like a copy of this research checklist for your teen, sign up for our Junior Monthly Checklist.)william and mary for premed

  1. Get to Know Teachers

It’s very likely that your college applications will include teacher recommendations from those who taught courses during grade 11. The 3 things that qualify a teacher to write a strong recommendation are

  1. The student knows the teacher
  2. The teacher knows the student
  3. The teacher can write well about the student

Juniors can develop positive relationships with teachers to “qualify” them as recommenders. For example, juniors should plan to meet with 1 or 2 teachers on a regular basis throughout the year. They may also “check-in” with teachers after graded assignments, during free periods, or at beginning of each term.

  1. Visit college campuses

Spring break of junior year is a great time to visit college campuses. Many other juniors around the country are visiting campuses in the spring as well. So juniors should be prepared by researching the colleges and scheduling campus visits well in advance.

  1. Take ACT or SAT

College-bound teens should take the ACT or SAT in junior year. If the first test is taken in the winter, then it allows time for any retake before the summer prior to senior year. The goal is to avoid taking any standardized test in the fall of senior year. In my experience of working with college-bound students, senior year is so busy with managing course workloads, juggling college deadlines, and writing application essays that taking a standardized test is a big nuisance. Besides that, retake scores usually go down.

Yes, junior year may come with a lot of stress and unanswered questions, but with consistent steps taken throughout the year, it can be a pivotal year on the path to college admissions success.

If you are a busy parent who wants to help your college-bound junior reach their full potential, please sign up for a Junior Year Checklist. During each week of 11th grade, parents will receive insightful tools and resources to help your teen be accountable.

What other tips for 11th grade success would you suggest? Please post in comments below

Author: Pamela E

Dr. Pamela has helped thousands of teens attend the college of their choice. She brings her 25 years experience in education to assist families, schools, and employers with college selection, admissions, financial aid, and more. Dr. Pamela holds a PhD from Stanford School of Education, and an MBA from Dartmouth.

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