College planning tips for juniors

Your high school junior year is the best time to explore the possibilities ahead of you - whether those possibilities include college, travel, or a career. Now is the time to ask questions about your future, shadow a job, visit colleges, take interest surveys, and set up a checking and/or savings account.

Your junior year is the last complete year that colleges may review, so it's important to maintain good grades. Keep in close touch with your guidance office about your grades and course selection.

Month-specific tips

A few of the steps you'll take to prepare for college during your junior year should be done during a specific month:

October

Register for and take the PSAT/NMSQT Test that will be held in October.
By taking the PSAT/NMSQT, you can gain knowledge that will assist you when it comes time to take the SAT I and II. Also, by taking this test, you will be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Competition.

You may also want to consider registering for the ACT or SAT offered in the spring of your junior year. If you aren't pleased with your score, you will still have another opportunity your senior to take the test again. You will also be placed on various schools' that you select as being interested in mailing lists.

May

Set up a savings plan for summer earnings.
Are you planning to work during the summer before your senior year of high school? Set up a plan, determining the portion of your earnings you'll save to reduce the amount you may have to borrow for college expenses.

Tips for the entire year

The majority of the things you'll want to do to prepare for college aren't specific to a period of time.

Selecting a school

Start/continue your college search.
This includes attending college fairs and college financial aid sessions. Start to think about visiting some college campuses to see which ones suit you. Continue to research colleges through their websites, college fairs, admissions representatives and applications, books, and college guides. By doing this you will get an idea of what's required and take the mystery out of the process.

You may want to research military academies and colleges. Review websites and meet with military representatives when they visit your school or visit the schools. Most military academies and colleges start the admissions process earlier than traditional colleges and universities. You may need to take the ASVAB test as part of the admissions process.

Careers

  • Explore career interest paths.
    Discuss possible career paths with your guidance counselor, based on your interests. Ask your counselor about a computer-based career and educational guidance system.
  • Create a resume.
    Your resume should talk about yourself outside of school. The school to which you are applying will already know your grades and test scores since these are included on your school transcript. Items that should be included are:
    • school activities,
    • community activities,
    • community service,
    • sports,
    • awards and recognition,
    • hobbies, and
    • work experience.

Admissions and preparation

  • Make note of registration deadlines and prepare for the upcoming SAT I and SAT II tests and the ACT assessment.
    When researching colleges, be sure to note whether they require the SAT I, SAT II test or the ACT assessment. Some colleges will require or recommend one or the other, others accept either. Your counselor also can provide guidance. Prepare for the test(s) you plan to take. Some states (e.g., Colorado and Illinois) require all public school eleventh-grade students to complete the ACT assessment. For more information, talk with your high school guidance counselor.
  • Meet with your counselor to ensure you are on track for college with your course selection.
    Are the courses you are taking or are scheduled to take in high school meeting college admission requirements? Talk to your counselor about taking more challenging courses such as honors, college prep, or Advanced Placement courses. Ask about any courses that you can take that may help you decide if a particular career direction is right for you. Discuss whether or not you should take the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests. Also, remember to maintain good grades.
  • Read, read, and read some more!
  • Stay active in extracurricular activities.
    While your grades in high school are important, colleges also look at what you do outside the classroom. They like to see that you are involved in sports, student government, and community activities, and that you take on leadership roles when available.

Paying for school

  • Discuss college finances with your family.
    When performing your college search, you need to know how much your family will be able to contribute towards your college education. Always remember, just because a college may seem expensive and out of your reach, never assume anything. There are several types of financial aid that may enable you to attend a college that may seem too expensive.
  • Save, save, save money for college!
  • Attend a financial aid night to learn the basics of financial aid.
    Many schools will hold financial aid nights in the fall. Make sure to attend one. You can also search the Internet to find out additional information or contact the Department of Education. If you haven't already, start researching scholarships through the Internet, local businesses, and your guidance counselor's office. If you have already started, continue searching. Register for free online scholarship searches and visit scholarship search sites.
  • Start to build good credit.
  • Open a checking and savings account if you have not already done so.

Advice for parents of juniors

As parents of high school age students, you may question if you have any degree of influence in their decision-making processes. Be reassured that they are listening to you, probably much more often than you think. So what can you do to help them in their search and preparation for college?

  • First, show them your support in their quest to gain knowledge, experience and expertise beyond high school.
  • Attend financial aid and scholarship presentations while they are juniors.You will be more prepared, and have fewer surprises, than if you wait until they are seniors to take advantage of these presentations.
  • Encourage them to build their resume by:
    • taking college prep classes,
    • participating in extracurricular activities, and
    • volunteering at programs outside of school.
  • Explore other FREE websites for information on careers, colleges, and ways to pay for college.