By Charlotte Klaar

All four years of high school contribute to your ultimate success. The more you accomplish in the first two years, the less your burden will be in the last two years. The stress can be intense coming down the stretch, so we advise that you plan for each year of your high school career so that, at its culmination, you’re confident and looking forward to what’s ahead.

Steps to Take in Junior Year

Junior year is the most important in your admissions campaign because it’s the last full year of high school about which colleges will see complete data when you apply. It represents you as a more mature student. Colleges use it as source to attain their predictive models to project how well you’ll perform as a college student.

  1. Start on Your College List 

Establish a set of criteria to guide you in building the list of schools to which you’ll apply. Your criteria can include such factors as the size of the student body, faculty-to-student ratio, total annual expenses, core curriculum, majors, degrees granted, geographic location, the nature of the local community, campus setting, campus amenities, work-study programs, and any other factors that you may consider important. By the end of junior year, you’ll narrow the list down to a pre-determined number of schools. You should plan to visit as many of them as possible over the next year.

  1. Plan for Exams 

You’ll be taking the SAT or the ACT and you’ll probably be taking AP exams.Register and mark the dates. Juniors should take the SAT or ACT in spring so you can take them again in the fall of your senior year if you need to improve your scores.Don’t take them too early to “get it over with.”

  1. Hone Your Abilities in Extracurricular Activities 

By now, you should know which activities that you’ll cite on your applications.Colleges look for commitment and depth, so just one activity is all you need if it fits that description.If you can attain a leadership role or garner an award in your activity, so much the better.Your talent or skill can serve you well, especially if it’s in a niche that colleges seek to fill.

  1. Learn Your Options for Financial Aid

Review with your family the financial resources that will be available to you.  Learn about financial aid from public sources,individual colleges, and corporations. High-school sponsored financial aid nights, independent financial aid counselors, and the media will be helpful in your research.

  1. Register for the Optimal Curriculum for Senior Year 

Meet with your guidance counselor to select classes for senior year. Make sure that you’ll graduate with all the courses that you’ll need for admission to specific schools that are on your list. Colleges consider the rigor of the curriculum of seniors as well as their grades when they’re available.

  1. Reach Out to Letter of Recommendation Writers

Most requests for letters of recommendation are directed to guidance counselors and a small subset of teachers. These individuals receive an enormous number of requests. If you wish to obtain a letter from one of them, ask them as a junior so that they’ll have notice before the fall semester crush. Be sure that they’ll have only positive comments and that you won’t be “Damned by faint praise”. You can also elicit a letter from a coach, the leader of one of your organizations, or an employer as long as they know you well.

  1. Visit Colleges

Campus visits require planning, especially if you wish to arrange for an admissions interview. Contact the admissions office to set up an interview, a guided tour, and a meeting with a faculty member and a student in the department of your planned major. There will be opportunities later to visit campuses, but it’s a good idea to start as a junior, especially with schools to which you may want to apply through an Early Admissions program.

  1. Make the Best of Junior Summer 

Admissions officials are impressed by those applicants who have worked within their planned field of study as interns or employees. If you have an opportunity to secure such a position, then by all means do so. It’s also time to start working on your essays and personal statements.

If possible, take a summer college course in your planned major to demonstrate your commitment to your planned field of study and to prove that you’re capable of college work.