Students preparing for a highly selective college should be enrolled in a set of rigorous classes. Besides the challenging coursework, juniors have to pay attention to participating in a testing sequence that will enable them to take advantage of the admission options they will encounter as seniors. It is also the time when they begin to define their “lists” of colleges that change and evolve over the course of the year.
The “To Do” list for juniors is much more detailed than the first two years of high school:
- Students should be even more focused on their extracurricular activities this year, reaching for leadership and excellent performance in their chosen interests.
- This summer between the junior & senior year is the last opportunity you have to make up any “D” grades you may have earned in college preparatory courses.
- Stay organized. During this year, especially after taking the PSAT, colleges will begin to send large amounts of material to you. It helps if you file information alphabetically or by state in a file cabinet or large container.
- The spring of the Junior year is “testing mania” time. This is the time for students to be taking the SAT and/or the ACT.
- Seriously begin the process of visiting colleges over the summer.
- GRADES! Finish this year strong – these are the last grades you will have to show your colleges when you apply in the fall. The Senior year is essentially all “in progress” on your or your college applications!
PSAT: All college bound juniors should sign up to take the PSAT, which also includes a section called the “NMSQT” (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). The PSAT is a practice test for the SAT, but the NMSQT is a separate organization that determines the highest level testers in the United States. Qualification at this tier can mean special recognition and scholarship opportunities for students.
SAT & ACT: The SAT and/or the ACT Test should definitely be taken at least once (preferably twice) during the spring semester of the junior year – usually in April and/or May. There are June test dates available, for those who need a back-up date. However, the June date is primarily used by students who need to take the SAT “Subject tests” (see below). Both the SAT Test and the ACT Test are accepted equally by virtually every college & university in the country. Click the link above to learn more about the differences between the SAT and the ACT, and the new “Redesigned” SAT known as the R-SAT”
Students can actually improve their overall chances by taking both the ACT and the SAT! The ACT is a three-hour multiple-choice examination of four major curriculum areas: English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning. Usually, students whose worst subject is Math do better on this test! It was designed to be taken by High School students towards the end of their Junior year. The four sections scores are converted to scaled scores between 1-36. Virtually all colleges and universities accept it as a qualifying entrance examination. It may be re-taken without penalty.
SAT SUBJECT TESTS: Many colleges & universities require additional tests beyond the SAT or ACT. As a result, many students will also need to take the SAT Subject Tests. For example, most juniors will probably be most prepared to take the US History, Math, Chemistry or Literature tests in June of this school year. It is an ideal time to take these three tests since it is immediately after final exams and studying for the finals is great preparation for these tests. It is possible to take as many as 3 of these Subject Tests in one sitting!
TEST PREP: The results of the PSAT come in late December or early January. Based on the results, students may decide they would like to enroll in a SAT prep course. All students should consider doing some form of test preparation prior to taking the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT in the spring of their Junior year. At the very least, students should work through one of the many “test prep” books or CD’s that can be purchased at any bookstore.
NCAA: Athletes who want to play at a NCAA university need to register with the NCAA, a process called certification by the NCAA Clearinghouse. This should be done after the spring semester of the junior year. The NCAA will also need the grades from the second semester the junior year, as well as a student’s SAT scores to complete the certification process). Athletes should also become familiar with recruiting guidelines which can be found on the NCAA website. Links to both the NCAA & the NAIA can be found at our NCAA link.
EARLY DECISION: Juniors should become acquainted with the concepts of Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Decision application options which will be available to them as seniors. This will be especially true if they are applying to private schools, especially the very competitive ones. The dates are very early (some as early as September or October of the senior year). So students well need to be ready to act quickly!
FINANCIAL AID/SCHOLARSHIPS: Students should begin having mature conversations with their parent(s) about what they observe and hope for in their future. Make sure to address issues like college location and costs. If the cost of a college is a concern, parents & students should log onto one of the many websites that will help provide the family “EFC” (estimated family contribution). This is a financial aid term which means, after evaluating the needs of the family, that the family will be expected to pay “X” amount of money, no matter what the cost of the college. In other words, the family will be expected to pay, say, $15,000 whether the college costs $16,000 for tuition, room and board or $30,000. These estimates can be helpful prior to submitting applications to unrealistic choices.