Many counselors and teachers will tell you that Junior year is the most important year in high school. Guess what? They are right. Everything you do as a Junior will weigh in heavily when it comes time to apply for college. It is at that point that not only do you figure out what institution you want to attend after high school, but what you want to do career-wise as well.
Below are 6 tips on how to maximize your Junior year in high school and adequately prepare for college.
1. Know What Career Path You Desire
First, you need to research some possible career paths. Consult with family, teachers, and your peers. Re-examine yourself and understand your strengths. If you like numbers and excel at it, maybe Mathematics and Statistics would work for you. If you enjoy the past, then maybe History is your thing. Dream about running your own business one day? Maybe Accounting, Finance, or Business Administration suits you. Or if you like acting and performing in front of a live audience, then there is the Performing Arts. Regardless of what that strength or area of interest may be, it is important you have a good grasp of it before you begin filling out application forms. Some colleges specialize in specific fields. For example, John Jay College of the City University of New York is mostly renowned for its Law and Criminal Justice program. Then you have colleges that mostly specialize in the liberal arts. There are so many fields to choose from. Take the time to fully understand what is it that you are looking to gain from your college experience and what subject area piques your interest the most.
2. Research and Prep Your List of Colleges
Figuring out your potential career path comes a long way in helping narrow down possible college choices you may want to consider. Also factor in location and costs as well when researching the colleges of your choice. Some high school graduates choose to stay local to be amongst their friends and families and attend college’s within the area. Others want to venture out on their own and take on the college life head on. Regardless of where it is you want to go, make it a priority to schedule campus visits and feel out the environment and the vibe. If you do not feel comfortable with the college settings, cross that college off of your list, as chances are you won’t fare well there. Visit several campuses and attend as many open houses/information sessions as you can. Give yourself ample opportunities to learn as much as you can about the colleges you hope to apply to and see if they are right for you.
3. Get Involved
Grades are good and all but they are not enough when it comes to applying for colleges. Colleges often want to see their applicants as well-rounded individuals who don’t just focus on academics. If you haven’t done so in your Freshman or Sophomore years, start getting involved in the community. Talk to a teacher or community outreach coordinator and see what community service events are available. If you are passionate about a particular sport, join your school’s sports team. Have a particular hobby or interest, join a club. Engaging in community service or extracurricular activities shows not only initiative, but demonstrates how well-rounded of an individual you are.
4. Study, Study, and More STUDY!
Junior year is when you will need to take SAT’s, ACT’s, and Advanced Placement Exams. There is no such thing as it’s too early to start studying and preparing for those exams. Sign up for as many Advanced Placement classes as you can and prep for those exams. Register for SAT or ACT prep courses, as high scores in those exams will improve your chances of getting admitted into the college of your choice. Junior year is also the year you want to demonstrate your best academically. Make sure your grades are as high as they can possibly be, for it’s your performance in Junior year that most colleges will look at.
5. Gain College Credit While in High School
Get a head start on college by registering for some pre-college programs. These programs have the added benefit of exposing you to what college-level coursework would entail while providing you the opportunity to earn college credit towards your degree. Examples of such programs include CUNY’s College Now program and Wagner College’s Summer Pre-College Program.
6. Don’t Limit Yourself
In some cases, certain colleges may have rigorous admission requirements. Maybe you fall short on some of them such as GPA’s or SAT/ACT scores. That does not mean you should not apply to that specific college. As mentioned earlier, there are more to college applications than just grades. There are letters of recommendations, community service involvement, leadership roles, and even work experience that may be looked at. Apply to as many colleges as you can. The worst that can happen is you do not get accepted. You’ll never know if you don’t apply.
Written by Tamer Mahmound