Junior Year & How to Beat It: A Winner’s Guide

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Junior year is an exciting time if you’re a high school student. You’re so close to being a senior, you can almost taste it.

But if you’re college-bound, the junior year marks the start several steps you’ll want to take right away to make sure that you have the best possible chance to get into the college or university you want.

Here’s how to ace your junior year with flying colors!

How important is junior year for college?

Junior year is exceptionally important in preparing for college.

The steps that you take leading up to this point, and throughout junior year itself, are going to play a major role in how your application to your top colleges and universities are seen by prospective admissions offices.

Top tier schools have limited spots available, so they’re very strict in their requirements.

With so many students doing everything they can to excel in every facet of their academic careers, planning ahead can make all the difference.

Fortunately, we’ve created a “junior year road map” to help you before, during, and after this momentous year, so that you can have the best possible chances of getting accepted to the school of your choice.

By the end of this article, you’ll know:

  • How to prepare for junior year even if you’re still a freshman or sophomore.
  • That’s right, there are steps you can take even if you’re not a junior to make your college prep even easier!
  • Exactly what steps to take during the middle of your junior year to give you the best possible chances of getting into the schools you want.
  • How to tackle the end of junior year with confidence. Senior year is right at your doorstep, and competition for the best schools is unrivaled. You’ll need the advice outlined in this guide if you want to surge ahead.

These days, good grades are no longer enough. You have to show your chosen colleges and universities that you are driven, focused, and diligent.

Fortunately, by keeping these points in mind as you progress through your junior year, you’ll be better situated not only to demonstrate your commitment and skill to prospective schools, but to demonstrate your stellar scholastic aptitude.

What should I be doing before my junior year?

If you’re a freshman or sophomore wondering how best to prepare for your junior year, it’s a good idea to map out your plans.

  • Figure out which classes you’ll need to take in the coming years in order to best align yourself for the requirements of the school(s) you’re aiming to apply to.
  • Different schools may have different requirements, but having a well-rounded selection of classes with special emphasis on your proposed area of study will already show admissions offices that you’re serious about making the grade.

Don’t forget the value of volunteer work. Colleges and universities actively look for civic-minded individuals, and your involvement in a summer program or volunteering can make all the difference when competition is fierce.

Choose a program that aligns with your values so that you can demonstrate that passion in your college entrance essays.

With this in mind, recognize that the next months and even years ahead of you are going to be much busier, so it pays to prioritize accordingly!

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What should I work on at the beginning of my junior year?

The beginning of junior year might seem relatively slow as the school season gets underway, but now is the best time to work on your time management skills.

  • Continue to study hard and work to achieve the best possible grades in all of your classes. If you’re struggling to manage it all, don’t hesitate to surround yourself with the tools you’ll need, such as a calendar or planner, or ask for help from family and friends.
  • Now is the perfect time to prepare for the SAT, ACT and/or SAT2. There are countless guides out there that will give you an idea of what to expect, but nothing beats good, old-fashioned studying and test prep!

If you already know what major area of study you’ll be pursuing, it’s also a good idea to start researching colleges that can best prepare you for this line of work.

Many colleges and universities are proud to share this information with you, and most, if not all, will have details on the percentage of alumni who graduated and got jobs in relevant fields.

What should I work on in the middle of my junior year?

Even by prioritizing your time to focus on the things that are most meaningful to you throughout junior year, you’ll find that time flies!

  • In the middle of junior year, you’ll want to take time to visit some college campuses for prospective programs you’re interested in.Meet your department heads, get a course catalog, and get to know the ambience of the area. Is it everything you expected? Do you feel welcomed and encouraged to attend? Can you see yourself spending the next 4+ years here?
  • In addition to continuing to keep up with your roster of activities, it’s a smart idea to pursue leadership positions in the activities you truly love and excel at.This may mean having to cut out some of the activities, clubs, or teams you’re not particularly focused on, in favor of the ones you really enjoy. Remember, it’s not about the quantity of activities you’re involved in, but the quality!

Just as with volunteer work, colleges and universities keep a keen eye out for those who don’t hesitate to step up to the plate to take charge and lead an organization.

It may also help to get letters of recommendation from a teacher or individual in charge of the groups you lead. Having a third party expound on your leadership characteristics and your self-discipline will contribute a great deal to your own efforts!

  • Also during this time, you’ll likely take the first standardized tests, such as the ACT, SAT, and/or SAT2, depending on the requirements of your prospective college or university.

All of your test preparations, mock exams, and studying come down to this moment, so make it count! Don’t worry, you can take the tests again, but taking them earlier during junior year will give you a better idea of what to expect.

If you’ve been working hard to get top grades, now is also a great time to see what scholarships you may qualify for. When it comes to paying for college, every little bit helps. So, take note of what scholarships may be available to help ease some of the financial bite of student loans.

What should I work on toward the end of junior year?

This is it! The final stretch of junior year. But your work still isn’t done. Now, more than ever, is when you should be kicking your college prep responsibilities into high gear.

  • Study for your AP exams. If you successfully pass your AP exams, you can get college credit for certain classes while still in high school. This not only helps you save time, but you save money as well.

Take relevant standardized tests. If you’ve been following the steps in this guide, you’ll already know what the tests are like, so this should be your final push to truly nab those top scores.

  • Ask teachers for recommendations. Recommendations from your teachers in terms of your character, scholastic aptitude, leadership skills, and volunteer work (if applicable) can add another facet of worth to your college essays and demonstrate that not only do you personally possess all of these qualities, but others see them as well.
  • Seek out scholarships. Scholarships aren’t just based on good grades. Check with organizations that you volunteered with, clubs that you were part of, and other local activities to see if they offer scholarships to help with some of the costs of college. You may be surprised at what you find.

And remember that even if the amount seems small, the costs of college add up quickly and every little bit can help!

  • Continue to visit college campuses. Depending on where you live, your school of choice may be closer or farther away.

Set aside some time near the end of junior year, before the summer, to keep visiting campuses and get a better feel for what to expect.

Should I start my college essays during my junior year?

Yes, you’ll want to start your college essays in late winter, around February, since this is when the Common App prompts are released.

Common App prompts are designed to inspire and motivate you to expand on your personal story and make a powerful and meaningful impression with college admissions offices.

It’s important to remember that when dealing with Common App Prompts, the prompt isn’t nearly as important as the story you want to tell. You’ve got approximately 650 words or one single-spaced page, so make it count!

What should I do after junior year is done?

Congratulations on completing your junior year! You may be tempted to rest on your laurels, but there’s still work to be done!

  • Continue visiting college campuses. It’s getting closer to the fall and closer to having to make a decision about which colleges you want to apply to. Now’s the time to finalize your list and start on those application packets.
  • Add on a summer program or volunteer work. Every little bit counts when it comes to making a brilliant impression on college admissions teams.
  • Keep in mind, they see hundreds if not thousands of transcripts and essays just like yours over the course of a summer.

Adding volunteer work or a summer program shows that you have the skills to handle both work, study, and volunteer work with a calm, level head and a helpful, encouraging personality.

  • Don’t forget supplemental essays. Some colleges and universities may ask for them, and you don’t want to be left empty-handed!
  • It’s best to start on these in August so that you can formally submit your application in plenty of time before the fall semester starts.

Conclusion: The Junior-Year Roadmap

The bottom line whether you haven’t started junior year yet, or you’re in the thick of it, is that this is your chance to shine.

Remember, you aren’t taking all of these steps to impress someone at an admissions office somewhere. You’re taking these steps to better prepare yourself for your college future and beyond.

This is your opportunity to truly share your skills and unique approach with the world, so get out there and show them what you’ve got!

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