So, you’re a junior in high school. Now what? Have you started thinking about senior year or college? Isn’t it too early to start thinking about college when you haven’t even graduated? Actually, if you’re considering college, your junior year is the best time to start planning.
If thoughts about college make you anxious, take baby steps. Concentrate on where you are now.
Consider your classes
As a junior, this is the best time to reflect on the classes you’ve taken and the grades you’ve received. What subjects interest you or put you to sleep? To learn more about yourself and your interests, take a critical look at your classes and grades because they provide the best clues about what majors to consider in college.
If you struggle in math, then chances are you won’t be happy pursuing an engineering degree. If you love reading, then majoring in English, history or communications would probably be a better fit.
Here are some questions to ask yourself now:
• What is your grade point average? Does it need improvement?
• Can you retake classes to improve grades?
• Are you on track to earn all of the credits required for graduation?
• Are there any courses you can take to help you decide if a particular career is right for you?
• Should you take honors or advanced placement classes?
• Can you start taking college prep courses or do you have to wait until you’re officially a senior?
These questions are important for you to start thinking about now.
Talk to others
Don’t try doing everything alone. In addition to getting advice from your parents, talk to your guidance counselor and let him or her know that you are interested in college.
A guidance counselor can help you do the following:
1. Choose the best classes to prepare for your senior year and your first year in college.
2. Explore career paths and how to prepare yourself to be a more attractive candidate for college selection committees.
3. Offer advice on choosing a college, preparing for college entrance exams or exploring funding options.
4. Find summer internships or businesses that will let you shadow someone in that profession. If you want to go into journalism, ask if your local newspaper will let you shadow a reporter. If you’re thinking about a communications major, check appropriate businesses to see if you can intern or shadow someone in order to learn more about the job.
Learn about yourself
In addition to talking to other people, you should also talk to yourself. College selection committees don’t just look at your transcripts, they also look at what you’ve done with your life. Will you be a good fit at their school and succeed as a student?
Engage in extracurricular activities such as student groups or team sports. Volunteer for organizations or non-profits like the Boys & Girls Club or Habitat for Humanity. They always need volunteers and this is a great way for you to mentor young people, develop leadership skills and give back to the community.
These activities teach you teamwork, leadership skills and time management, so don’t look at them as a waste of time or distraction. The experiences you gain and the interests you develop will help you learn more about yourself.
Over the next year, pay attention to yourself. Everything you do now can help you write a personal essay, which is a requirement for most applications. This essay is a place for you to showcase how your experiences and activities have helped you grow and mature. In this way, your extracurricular activities become more than just bullet points on your resumé. Your essay should bring them to life.
Research colleges and costs
How much does college cost and how much can you and your parents contribute? Never assume that you can’t afford a school. Many colleges have packages designed to diversify their student body. If you’ve excelled at sports, leadership positions or academics, there might be a scholarship available. More importantly, attend financial aid and scholarship presentations. Many of these take place in the fall.
Start researching colleges online and visiting campuses if possible. Ask schools if they can help defray your costs to come visit their campus. Also, attend college fairs. You can meet admissions representatives, pick up brochures and learn more about the application process. This takes some of the mystery out of the process.
You may also want to find out if a college has any summer programs that bring high school juniors and seniors to campus. Some schools and organizations fund summer programs that allow juniors and seniors to become familiar with college life while earning college credit.
Write a resumé
Your application will have your school transcripts, so admissions offices will already be aware of your grades and test scores. The resumé and the personal essay allow you to tell the selection committee more about yourself. Include school activities, community service, sports, leadership roles, awards and work experience.
Do all of this now while you have plenty of time!
My To-Do List
o Make an appointment with my guidance counselor
o Go over graduation requirements
o Consider required classes for senior year
o Make sure I am on track for graduation
o Consider A.P., honors, or college prep classes
o Get involved in my school (sports, government, organizations, clubs)
o Get involved in my community by volunteering
o Start exploring and visiting colleges
o Start writing a resumé and making notes for my personal essay(s)