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Junior Year -The Critical Second Semester

It’s the second semester of Junior year and things start to heat up. You should ideally  begin your  college search and application process. One thing you’re guaranteed to hear people talk about the importance of junior year. The first two years are important since they pave the way for junior year. However there is special focus placed on how critical junior year is—especially in the second semester.

Hour glass and calendar concept for time slipping away for important appointment date, schedule and deadline

The second semester of your third year of high school marks a lot of important steps. Those steps will set the scene for the rest of your academic future and beyond. In order to show off your strengths when you begin applying to colleges during your senior year, you should have a strong resume that is mostly built during your junior year.

That resume will include things like…

  • Academic performance and test scores
  • Leadership strengths
  • Productive summer plans

The accomplishments on your resume will be bolstered by…

  • Letters of recommendation
  • Adequate test prep
  • Extracurricular involvement

Understanding your own strengths will help you…

  • Identify your top choice colleges
  • Schedule college visits
  • Organize your application process

Academic performance

Academic performance is important every year of high school. However, if you had trouble transitioning and didn’t perform as well as you hoped during freshman and sophomore years, junior year is really the time to shine. Since college applications will already be submitted during your senior year, your junior year performance will be admissions offices’ most current representation of your capabilities as a student. If there is considerable evident growth from your freshman year to your junior year grades, that will be looked upon favorably by those assessing your application.

Your schedule

Consider a challenging but manageable curriculum when you set your schedule for your junior year. It’s important to impress colleges but being able to succeed is important too. If your school offers Advanced Placement courses, visit your counselor to see which subject might be a good fit and to learn more about the AP exams held in May. These visits to your counselor will be valuable in other ways too. He or she will be helping you find schools that are a good fit, writing letters of recommendation, and more.  

Time management

Your counselor can also help you manage your time most efficiently. While balancing classes and extracurricular activities can prove challenging, getting involved is an important way to gain leadership experience. Proving one’s ability to be a natural, effective leader that makes a difference in the community is a highlight on any college application. The students who show leadership qualities are what admissions offices want to see in their incoming freshman class. Colleges tend to look for leadership experience in two or three extracurriculars, whether they be a sports team, student council, a club, a volunteer group, or a number of other opportunities.

Summer involvement

Summer is also a great time to get involved in the community. Colleges will be looking for students who choose to fill their days with productive activities that benefit the community or your personal development, like a job, volunteering, travel, or an educational program. Students may also explore opportunities to take a class at a community college to get a feel for an actual college course in an area they are interested in. Not only will this give you a head start in college prep, but it also shows a willingness and excitement to learn. To make sure time doesn’t run out, start making commitments to get involved over the summer by spring break of your junior year. That will allow adequate time for any programs that have an application process.

Test prep

You can also use extra time in the summer to prepare for standardized tests. It can be hard to find time for ACT or SAT prep on top of all of your other homework. This makes summer the perfect time to work with a tutor and take practice tests to help guide your study. To stay on track for college applications, aim to take your exams in the early fall of your senior year.

Letters of recommendation

Along with test scores, colleges will ask for letters of recommendation. These typically come from a teacher or counselor that knows your strengths. To give teachers enough time to write a stellar letter, it’s best to ask them if they’d be willing to write a letter before you leave for summer vacation at the end of your junior year. At that point, you’ll have completed a year of work that the teacher is (hopefully) impressed by and ready to brag about.

Your top colleges

Once the letters are written and your test scores are in, it’ll be time to send them out! Narrow your list of potential colleges into three preliminary tiers: target, reach, and safety schools. During spring break of your junior year, you should visit as many of them as you can to see which are great academic and environmental fits. It also doesn’t hurt to branch out from your list so you expose yourself to a number of different college settings. That’ll help you be sure about what you like and what you don’t. Some high schools may also hold college fairs where you can meet representatives from a selection of schools to get an idea for what suits you most.  

College visits

Try to visit the colleges on your list while they’re in session so you can get a true sense for everyday life on campus. Those dates are one of many that you’ll need to pay attention to over the course of the college admissions process. It’s important to keep a close eye on the calendar and to be organized so you don’t miss important deadlines around test dates, letters of recommendation, admissions decisions, transcript requests, and applications.

Though much of the second semester of you junior year will be consumed with the college application process, the time you dedicate to putting your best foot forward will pay off in the end.

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