Junior year – you’re finally getting the hang of high school, and now your parents and counselors are telling you to start thinking about the next step, college. Don’t stress out too much, you still have a good amount of time before the application deadlines start approaching, but it’s not too early to start thinking about where you want to go after you graduate high school. Attending a four year institution isn’t the path for everyone, but if you have decided that your goal is to earn a college degree, then now is the time to start doing your research.
Now that you have determined that you want to go to college, the real research begins. Junior year should be an exploratory time for you because there are thousands of universities across the country and the world! Try not to let the multitude of choices overwhelm you, and focus on the qualities of a school that matter most to you such as location, student body size, programs offered, etc. I recommend writing out a list of these characteristics and try to rank them in order of importance.
If you aren’t sure what qualities are the most important to you, there are several quizzes you can Google and take online from the comfort of your home! The results can help you narrow down the schools you may be interested in. That being said, don’t write off a school that piques your interest just because it wasn’t listed on your quiz results.
Your college counselor is also a great resource to talk to when you are researching colleges. Counselors often have opportunities to visit several universities throughout their career, so they might know of a school that you might not know about yet! It’s also a good idea to get an outside opinion from someone other than your family or friends about where might be a good fit for you.
Now that you have a running list of schools you are interested in, it’s time to do a deep dive on each one. Because of the current pandemic, physically visiting campuses is most likely out of the question for a while. Universities have adapted quickly to this new reality and many have begun to offer virtual information sessions, virtual campus tours, and have increased their social media presence. Checking out their website will be a great place to start to learn more information about how to register for online events, links to tours, etc. Some schools also have robust YouTube video channels, so I would look at that as well! Be sure to take notes as you research and keep those in a safe place as you approach application season.
As a junior, you also need to buckle down on academics. This is a great time to take a step back and evaluate how you have been performing throughout high school. Have you been pushing yourself to take advanced coursework? Have you been putting in the work to make good grades? Are you proud of your GPA? If so, that’s great! Keep up the good work. If not, take some extra time to reevaluate what you need to improve and what steps you can take to finish high school with a strong academic record. Since you are at home and your extracurricular activities are paused, this is a great chance to take the time to work on your study skills and really put in the effort to earn high grades. Using this extra time at home to begin studying for the SAT or ACT would also be a very productive activity! According to the College Board website, the May 2, 2020 SAT test is cancelled, so you have plenty of time to start practicing for the next one.
Junior year is all about research and preparing for senior year. Have some fun exploring different schools and imagining yourself as a college student, but also focus on making sure your academics are the best they can be. Reach out to current college students you know, family friends, or even your parents to talk about their college experiences and what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy. Appreciate your time at home during this time of uncertainty because before you know it you will be graduating high school and moving into your first college dorm!
By Maddie McAleenan, Admissions Counselor