Welcome to our year-by-year breakdown of how to prepare for college applications! Our third post in this series is all about preparing for your Junior Year. Please note that this guide is a very generalized plan—use it as a starting point, and feel free to tailor it to your own situation. For more personalized tips and advice about applying, check out our virtual advising services!
Again, sign up for challenging courses and keep up your grades! You’ll probably have a ton of course options this year. Take difficult classes in your favorite areas to show rigor in your transcript, and make sure to stay on track with your graduation requirements.
Even if your freshman and sophomore grades weren’t the strongest, doing well with challenging courses in junior and senior year shows an upward trend and can impress admissions officers.
As per usual, keep up your extracurriculars and hobbies, and look into taking on leadership responsibilities.
Get to know your teachers well! You’ll have to ask at least two teachers for letters of recommendation, and the better they know you, the stronger your recommendations will be. Ask questions in class, visit them in tutorial, and put lots of effort into their classes overall. Some schools ask specifically for recommendations from one STEM teacher and one humanities teacher, so make sure to look into each college’s requirements.
People generally ask for letters of rec starting in March of junior year. The earlier you ask, the better!
Your teachers are not necessarily obligated to write you a letter. Ask them politely, and if they show any sign of doubt, it might be a good idea to ask another teacher instead. This will help you get the strongest, most positive letters possible.
Your recommenders will probably give you some sort of questionnaire, asking about you as a student and giving you a chance to reflect on your experiences in their class. Answer these questions as thoroughly as possible! Include really specific memories from the school year that showcase you in a positive light to help jog your teacher’s memory and help them write a strong letter.
You’ll also have to complete a survey for your advisor. This letter is different from your teacher recommendations, but still requires some work. You can also supplement this letter with “short forms” from coaches or other mentors in your life.
If you’ll be taking the SAT or ACT during junior year, make sure to register early in order to secure a spot at the nearest testing center (if you sign up too late, you might have to drive somewhere really far!). Keep taking practice tests and reviewing your answers in the weeks leading up to the exam.
Start building your college list! Think about what kind of college you’d like to attend (Large or small school? Geographic location? Potential majors? Cost of attendance?) and start narrowing down schools that way. Your list will probably go through many stages of evolution so don’t worry about locking down anything quite yet.
Create a spreadsheet to keep track of information for each college!
Visit college campuses, if you can. If you’re thinking about applying ED to a school, you should definitely think about visiting, to make sure it’s the right choice for you. Alternatively, you can check out virtual tours online, or drive around local college campuses, like Santa Clara, Stanford, and San Jose State, to figure out what small, medium, and large-sized schools feel like.
Attend local college fairs and college representative presentations. You can also contact any alumni you might know.
Study for and take AP exams in May. Good scores impress admissions officers! Different classes in school prepare you to different extents, so figure out where you might need to fill in the gaps.
Consider registering for and taking SAT subject tests in June, right after the school year ends, so the content will still be fresh in your mind. Sometimes SAT subject tests feel way different than AP tests, so if you’re, say, signing up for the Bio SAT after taking AP Bio, still make sure to do some practice tests beforehand.
Once again, figure out how to fit some meaningful experiences into your summer. Dive into one or two of your interests on a deeper level, or take on a more time-consuming commitment like a job or an online course.
During the summer, get a head start on college essays!