Juniors Should Start Planning Now

High school juniors who have just watched older classmates go through the stress of applying to college might want to avoid even thinking about college right now, but that will only make things more difficult later. Some of my seniors finished their college applications by Thanksgiving and were able to enjoy their winter break, while others waited until the last minute and had a miserable holiday week rushing to get their applications done by January 1. 
If you will be applying to college next year, getting started now can make the process less stressful and more rewarding. Knowing what you need to do is the first step in taking control. Then you can make a plan, which further reduces anxiety.
Most students take the SAT and/or ACT in the spring of junior year. If you haven’t decided on a testing schedule, this is the time to choose test dates and register. If you plan to take a March or April exam, you’ll want to give yourself two months to prepare.
Talk to older friends or relatives who are currently in college. They can give you great information about their school. They also have wisdom to share about the college admission process. Ask them how they approached the college search and what they wish they had done differently when they were applying to college.
Start putting together a list of colleges that appeal to you. Read guidebooks and research colleges online. Go to each school’s website, where you can learn about academic programs and student life. Follow them on social media. You can also access most college newspapers online. This is a great way to learn about activities on campus, as well as what issues students are discussing. You can read about concerts or lectures on campus this weekend, budget cuts that will impact course offerings next year, or a recent crime wave in the surrounding neighborhood.
You get better at visiting colleges once you’ve done it a few times. So start with local colleges, even if you’re sure you want to go farther away. By visiting a small liberal arts college and a big university, you’ll get a sense of which environment feels right for you.
If you can travel during spring break, that’s the perfect time to visit colleges that are farther away. Once you have decided which colleges you most want to see, check the tour and information session schedules, which should be available on each school’s website, and make reservations. Some admissions offices will arrange for prospective students to attend a class and have lunch with a student, or even stay overnight, and this can help you get a better sense of what it would be like to be a student at the college.
Check the admissions requirements for each college you like. If you find that you need SAT Subject Tests, better to know now so you can take those exams in May or June, rather than finding out in September that you should have taken the Chemistry Subject Test when you were finishing the course in June. Researching admissions requirements in the spring also gives you time to find a summer college course or enrichment program and choose senior year courses that will enhance your application.
Learning about financial aid now will enable you to choose schools that are realistic financially as well as academically. You can also start researching scholarship opportunities by registering with a scholarship search engine.
While these suggestions are aimed at juniors, ambitious sophomores can also start researching prospective colleges and learning about admission requirements, which can help them make good choices about courses, extracurricular activities and summer plans.

Success Stories

  • Anil A., Camarillo
    "THANK YOU for your assistance, guidance and experience in helping Kyle navigate through the college admissions process. Even the best of us need help in getting better and you helped our son in achieving his dream. ... Notre Dame not only offered him the best financial package but it was his first choice. Once again please accept our deepest gratitude and sincere appreciation for helping Kyle."
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