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How to survive junior year of high school

Credit: Kidsday staff artist / Max Tunney, Long Beach

Phew! I just finished, and survived, my junior year in high school. And, yes, it was every bit as tough as people said it would be. The college application process is daunting and one of the most important parts of a high schooler’s career. All four years in school lead up to college, and it can be overwhelming to get everything ready for applications while still having to do well in school, on standardized tests, taking driver’s ed, and continuing to be an active member of the community. Because I’m currently going through the process and have completed junior year myself, I decided to make a checklist of things to do your junior year based on my own experiences.

Throughout high school

•Be involved with your school and participate in many activities and sports

•Do things that interest you. It will help you narrow down what you’re interested in and possibly help in choosing a major. Just do what makes you happy and the rest will fall into place.

•It’s important to keep track of all your activities, awards and community service. You’ll have to create a resumé eventually, so the more organized you are to start, the better.

Summer before junior year

•Research colleges to understand what majors are generally offered, the type of school you’re interested in, and where you think you want to be geographically. Don’t worry too much about being accepted to certain schools. The lack of standardized tests and junior-year grades make this prediction stage challenging.

•If possible, complete an SAT II subject test for an AP class you’ve taken in June. These tests aren’t always required, but some schools require as many as three. It would be to your benefit to take one June of 10th grade to get it out of the way. The subject tests are offered the same day as the regular SAT, so it would be to your advantage to take one test sophomore year so you won’t have to sacrifice a regular SAT to take the subject tests your junior year.

Fall of junior year

•Take a diagnostic test in the ACT and SAT to decide which test is best for you. Starting early will mean you will most likely finish testing earlier and get it out of the way, and then save the fall of senior year for applications. For these tests, it’s necessary to sign up at least a month prior online because spots fill up quickly. You can stop taking these tests whenever you are happy with your score.

Winter of junior year

•The winter breaks are a great time to visit colleges. Visiting is helpful because it can help determine the type of campus and distance from home that you’re interested in.

•Schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor to discuss where you stand in terms of grades and what schools you should research. It’s important to be on your counselor’s radar so he or she can let you know about programs or visits from colleges you’re interested in.

•Narrow your list of schools. See if they need subject tests, what majors they have, and if your ACT and SAT scores are where they need to be.

Spring of junior year

•Make sure you finish the year strong. The final semester of your junior year is your last chance to make your grades the best they can be.

•Log on to the Common App and make an account. It’s important to become familiar with the website because many schools will accept applications from there.

Summer before senior year

•Fill out the background information on Common App so you won’t have to do it in the fall.

•The summer is a great time to attend information sessions and take tours of colleges you’re seriously considering.

•Create a list of all the schools you plan to apply to. It’s important to be aware of the upcoming deadlines, and the summer is the time when you should decide if you want to apply to a college Early Decision (binding and you’ll hear in December), Early Action (nonbinding and you’ll hear back in December) or Regular Decision (you’ll hear back in March).

•Write your college essays in the summer. You will most likely get the prompts at the end of your junior year from your school. It’ll be helpful to at least have a draft done, and you can ask a teacher to revise it once school starts up again.

While this process can at times be extremely stressful, organizing it like this makes it a lot easier. Good luck.

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