Originally Posted: Mar 18, 2019
Last Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Junior year is a turning point for many families because it marks the year when college planning activities begin to consume all your free time. It helps to go into your senior year of high school with a plan, so start now to ensure that you don’t fall behind. Here’s what you should be doing the spring of your junior year and into the summer.
Your quick spring college planning checklist
This checklist should act as a guide to get you started on your junior year college planning, but these aren’t the only things you have to do. So make sure you keep track of everything you’ve done so far as well as everything else you need to get done. The best way to tackle the college search and admission process is by staying organized.
- Meet with your school counselor. You’ll want to make sure that you’ll complete all the requisites for your diploma. Take full advantage of the classes offered by your high school and schedule a rigorous course load for senior year. Also check on your class rank and your current GPA. If you haven’t performed as well as you had hoped the first two years of high school, it’s not too late to change that. An upward trend in grades is something colleges like to see.
- Sign up for standardized test(s): In the beginning of the semester, look up testing dates and locations for the SAT and/or ACT. The tests are typically offered about once a month during the school year. Decide which test you’re most comfortable with and which one highlights your strengths most to colleges by taking a few practice tests.
- Plan your college visits: Start to narrow down your college selection and schedule visits to your top choices for the summer. Make sure those colleges fit the most important qualifications to you: size, location, cost, majors, any special programs of interest, etc.
- Ask for letters of recommendation: Most colleges require you to submit at least one or two letters of recommendation from a teacher or school counselor. Additional letters can be written by a manager, club leader, coach, or anyone you have formed a close relationship with recently. Begin to gather the material you will give each person to help them write the best LOR possible.
- Research SAT Subject Tests: Start to do more research about what your colleges of interest require for admission, such as SAT Subject Tests. There are four policies regarding Subject Tests: required, recommended, considered, and alternative. If it’s financially feasible for you to take SAT Subject Tests, and schools on your list either require or recommend it, you can sign up and prepare for them in the spring and summer. Also, a small number of colleges have the policy that Subject Tests can act as an alternative to standardized testing; they allow an applicant to submit Subject Test scores in lieu of ACT and SAT scores.
- Get familiar with the FAFSA: Once you narrow down your college list, go to each school’s website to find out how much it costs per year to go there. Also get to know the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even though you can’t fill out the FAFSA until October 1 of your senior year, you can start to gather the necessary materials.
- Start your Common App essay: The summer before senior year is your time to get a head start on the college application process. Check out the Common Application to see their selection of essays and begin working on them as soon as possible.
- Update your résumé and LinkedIn profile: The Common Application has a limited character count for extracurricular descriptions, but a well-crafted résumé can be used to showcase your accomplishments. In addition, consider creating a LinkedIn profile to act as an online portfolio that adds another dimension to your application. You’ll want to include videos, pictures, research papers, and anything else that can help humanize you to the admission staff.
The second semester of your junior year is an essential time for preparing for college. It’s always good to start thinking about college a little bit before then, but junior year is really when you need to get stuff done. Use this checklist to help guide you in the early stages of your college search and keep yourself organize while you do. By starting early and staying on top of things, you can put together a stronger application that might help you get into the college of your dreams.
For more college search and planning advice, check out our College Admission section.