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College 101

Article Type: Checklist

Junior year is awesome. It’s like being next in line for a whole year. You get to be excited to be a senior until, well, you become a senior. Try not to wear yourself out.

Junior year is when things actually get pretty important and quite frankly, when things can get pretty stressful too. Make sure you don’t end up with the short end of the stick by taking care of the following stuff.


  Take the Most Challenging Course Load You Can. Go for the Honors Classes. Take AP Classes or IB classes. Challenge yourself. Remember, a B in AP Physics will be more impressive than an A+ in Beginner Noodle Making. Unless you are applying to Professional Noodle College.

  Earn the Best Grades You Can. If you haven’t noticed a pattern yet, we can tell you. Grades are important. How Important Are Good Grades? Short answer: super important. Struggling? Let Shmoop help with some handy Study Guides if you need some help in your classes.

Building Yourself

  Think about your Interests and Skills. In fact, do more than that. Do what interests you. Kick butt at things at which you excel. Hopefully, you've found something you're passionate or at least a little interested in by this time. It might make for a great college essay topic. In fact, some of the best college essays are actually written about people's passions and interests. 

  Try entering in some competitions. Interested in science? Try the Intel Science and Engineering Fair. Interested in Politics? Try joining a local Model United Nations Group. Take a look at Tasty Bits: Competitions for more ideas.

  Build Your Brag Sheet. You should know what this is by now. This sheet should be filling up with all the wonderful things you have done. By junior year, you should be an active voice in at least one extracurricular activity. Your teachers should know you as the student who will take leadership and get stuff done in class. Develop relationships (not creepy ones) with teachers.

Standardized Testing Requirements

  Take the PSAT in the Fall. Wait, there’s a PSAT? Yes, you took it already Sophomore year, right? The PSAT is a great chance for you to test out your standardized test chops before the arrival of the big, bad SAT and ACT. And who knows? You might just rock it and qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.

  Prepare for the SAT and ACT and take one of each in the Spring. These two tests are really important for the applications process, so make sure you prepare well (if you happen to get unlucky or don’t score as well as you’d hoped, you can always retake them, though!). If you're an international student, make sure to prepare for the TOEFL and IELTS. Point them to Shmoops Test Preps

  Take SAT Subject Tests near the end of the school year. Remember that some of the more competitive colleges require that you take some of these. If you are shooting for one of these schools, don’t wait until the last minute to take a few.

Getting Ready to Apply to Colleges

  Visit Colleges. Now’s the time to let the schools actually know you’re visiting, letting them know you’re interested. Schedule a formal tour. Talk with an admissions officer. Sit in on some classes or talk to a coach. The goal here is to get a feel for specific schools you may apply to.

  Begin to Generate Your Big List. Not like Nixon’s Big List. This is a list of schools that meet your requirements to research and visit.

  Request Letters of Recommendation. Remember that Brag Sheet you have been filling out since Middle School? Pull it out, sponge the Pepsi off of it, and use it to get some great letters. Just remember to tell your teachers where to send them.


  Do Something Constructive with Summer Vacation. This is a pretty important summer. Why not work a part-time job? If you didn’t have time during the school year, or you anticipate maybe not having that much time next school year either, start researching colleges or even college visiting. Or see if you can score an internship. Getting some real work experience and talking with working professionals who are in the field you might be interested in is certainly very valuable.

  Check some books off from the Ultimate Summer Reading List. The point is to look back on your summer and be proud of what you accomplished.

  Start looking at a few college essay prompts and start brainstorming in College Essay Lab. Reflect on some of your most proud accomplishments and the best experiences you’ve had in high school.

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