How to Get a Head Start on the College Application Process Junior Year

College applications can be stressful, especially if you leave all the work for senior year. Get a head start while you're a junior with these tips!

At the beginning of high school, there was an ominous feeling surrounding my junior year. It’s known as the most stressful year for any high school student: you’re overloaded by pressure to know exactly what you’re going to do with your life, where you’re going to go to college, the never-ending scholarship hunt, and the dreadful SAT or ACT. How could you ever find the time to start your college applications when you’re struggling to balance school, work, extracurricular activities, and a social life? Check out these tips on how to get a head start on your college search and application process! 

Find time to work on the basic info

As stressful as junior year is, we always manage to find time to sit on the couch and watch Netflix. No matter how riveting the next episode of Grey’s Anatomy is, you can find some time to fill out basic information on your college applications too. Most schools use programs like the Common App or Coalition Application, so you can build your application all in one place. The basic information at the start of your application will cover things like your address, graduation year, and demographics. Filling this information in won’t take too much away from watching Meredith Grey’s next surgery—junior year is all about multitasking, after all!

Start the college search

You eventually need to send your application somewhere, so building a college list is important! Websites like CollegeXpress and the College Board have great resources for starting your college search. It’s also important to figure out what your priorities are. Do you want to stay in state? How about a private or public college? How much financial aid will you need? Does the college have your major (and your backup majors)? 

Related: The Basics of When and How to Begin Your College Search in High School

Use your summer wisely

While we all want to spend our entire summer poolside, we could devote some of that time to our college apps too. The summer before senior year is a great time to work on your applications: you won’t have much school work to worry about (other than summer assignments), and you’ll have a lot more time allotted to start writing your college essays and building a killer application.

Think about when you want to apply

Colleges have several different ways of applying. The three most common application deadlines are Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision.

  • Early Decision deadlines are early in your senior year, typically around November. The great thing about Early Decision is that you can find out about acceptance before the winter holidays. But it’s a binding contract, so you can only apply to one school when doing Early Decision (unless you are denied). If you get accepted to that school, you have to go.
  • Early Action is similar to Early Decision in that you apply earlier in the year, but it’s non-binding. This means you can apply to several schools early and choose whether you’d like to attend or not if you are accepted.
  • Regular Decision is later in the year, with deadlines usually in January or February, and applicants are notified of their admission status by April.
  • Rolling admission is another option in which there's no deadline, per se: colleges evaluate applications until all of the available spots are filled for that year.

Talk to your high school counselor

Your counselor is your best resource for anything college, so don’t be scared to set up a meeting! Their job is to help guide you. Tell them what your current plan is, and if you don’t have one, they can help you get started. They’ll be more than happy to look over your college applications and provide you feedback. They also know how to find all of the best local and regional scholarships.

Related: When to Ask Your School Counselor These Questions 

Apply for scholarships

It’s no secret that college is expensive, and not having the proper funds to pay for tuition is a common issue. Scholarships are important, and it's never too early to start applying for them. Some great resources can be found on CollegeXpressUnigo, and Cappex. If you can find local scholarships that are specific to your state, region, or even high school, those are the best: there will be a smaller applicant pool, which means you’ll have a greater chance of winning.  

Build your résumé

College is competitive, so your application needs to show how motivated and involved of a student you are. If you’re not already part of a club or organization, it's not too late to join one, become an officer, or find a way to make your own club! If you love animals, volunteer at a rescue center. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved at school or in your community, and colleges love to see that you are.

Related: How to Craft the Perfect High School Résumé

Application season is fast approaching and will be here before we know it. It’s important to take advantage of junior year before senioritis sets in—and trust me, it will. The college admission process can be stressful, so there’s nothing wrong with getting ahead!

Find more articles and advice to get ahead on your applications in our College Admission section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Tayler Butters

Tayler Butters

Tayler Butters is a high school student with a passion for music, photography, and writing. She loves spending her time in church and with her golden retriever, Lilly.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Anthony Vidal

Anthony Vidal

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress has helped me in a series of different ways when it comes to finding scholarships and learning information about different universities. I actually found my dream university through CollegeXpress and am working on getting there.

Tariq Adam Khatib

Tariq Adam Khatib

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me a lot. I am a Tanzania boy who finished my high school studies in Tanzania. I never knew I could get an opportunity to get a scholarship to study abroad. I am happy that now I know how to find the school to study abroad through CollegeXpress.

Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.

Maurice Whan

Maurice Whan

$2,000 Spring Scholarship Contest Winner, 2021

This year has been tough for my family and myself, so receiving this scholarship has been a blessing in disguise! CollegeXpress has been an excellent resource in helping me prepare financially for college. Thank you again for this amazing opportunity!

Makiyah Murray

Makiyah Murray

High School Class of 2021

The college application process has been a stressful one, but CollegeXpress has eased some of that stress with its readily available college resources. At the beginning of the process, I frequently used the college search feature, and now that I’m almost done applying, I’ve started using the scholarship search. Both of these resources have made it easier to find relevant information.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Northwood University

Midland, MI

Hendrix College

Conway, AR

Clarkson University

Potsdam, NY