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Plan for College During High School: 10 Things for Juniors to Accomplish

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Back to school season is riiiight around the corner! High school seniors are psyched about being the big deals on campus and college freshmen are itching to move into their new dorms, but what about high school juniors? Eleventh grade is when college planning starts to become a reality. Read on for 10 important things to do during your junior year:

1. Take the PSAT during the fall.

Even if you already took it during your sophomore year, register for the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) in the fall of your junior year. Why? Even though scores from this standardized test, which is administered by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, are not used for college admission purposes, very high scores may help you win scholarships. The test is considered easier than the SAT, but it’s still a good trial run before you take the SAT in the spring of your junior year. Your PSAT score can serve as feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to focus your SAT preparation on those areas.

Find PSAT/NMSQT test dates and fee information here.

2. Keep your grades up.

It’s generally recommended that high school juniors take academically challenging classes to show college admissions officers that they are ready for high-level college coursework, but make sure you keep your grades up. When you start applying to colleges and universities during the fall of your senior year, admissions counselors will be looking at your junior year grades. C’s and D’s will not look impressive. Read books that aren’t required and pay attention to current events. It will all come in handy!

3. Meet with your high school guidance counselor.

Students at some large high schools rarely if ever see their guidance counselor. Make it a point to meet with yours—schedule an appointment if you aren’t able to just drop by their office—and ask questions. Is your current class schedule right for you, or would Honors or Advanced Placement classes be better? Find out about career planning options and get information about colleges in your area.

4. Start to think about the type of college you would like to attend.

Your high school guidance counselor and your parents will be able to offer advice, but you will have to make a lot of decisions. Have you had your heart set on a particular college since middle school? Are you going to live at home and attend community college before going away to a state university, or is a small liberal arts college up your alley?

5. Get involved at school and in your community.

Extracurricular activities and community service are both important when it comes to filling out your college applications. Junior year is a great time to get involved at your school, church, community groups and more. Some high schools even require community service hours for graduation. Not only will these activities help improve your college applications and your resume, they offer the chance to work with others while helping people.

Not sure where to volunteer? Consider The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, or Meals on Wheels, all of which have programs across the country.

6. Attend a Financial Aid information session.

How to pay for college is a challenge facing most students and their families. High school guidance counselors and college financial aid counselors can both provide information about financing a college education on a one-on-one basis, but more and more schools are starting to offer financial aid info sessions for students and parents. These meetings are often called Financial Aid Night or something similar, and you should be able to find one in your area. (Ask your guidance counselor or contact the financial aid office at a local community college.) These sessions may be geared toward high school seniors who are already further down the college planning path, but the sooner you start exploring your financial aid options, the better.

7. Take the SAT and/or ACT during the spring of your junior year.

The SAT and SAT Subject Tests assess students’ readiness for college. The SAT is comprised of three major sections—Critial Reading, Mathematics, and Writing—and is required for entry to many colleges and universities in the United States. SAT Subject Tests, required by certain programs, are offered on 20 individual subjects and often taken to display a student’s qualifications for admission to college. The SAT’s main competitor, the ACT, is also an indicator of college readiness. The ACT is divided into four areas: English, math, reading and science reasoning.

Most colleges and universities require SAT and/or ACT scores along with applications.

Find SAT test dates and fee information here.

Find ACT test dates and fee information here.

8. Attend a college fair.

Colleges and universities commonly send admissions representatives to high schools in hopes of recruiting interested students, but attending a college fair will give you the opportunity to interact with reps from a wide range of schools in one place. National college fairs such, as those put on by the National Association for College Admission Counseling are offered in metropolitan areas across the country, but your local high school district may also organize its own college fair.

9. Take a campus tour.

If you have a potential college in mind, visit the campus and take a tour if possible. You could also visit a college or university within driving distance of your home, just to get a feel for a college campus and experience a tour. Who knows, you mind wind up liking the school!

10. Start saving money for your college fund.

When it comes to paying for college, there is no such thing as saving too soon! Open a savings account and start putting a portion of your birthday cash or money earned baby-sitting and working part-time. Even if your parents will be paying for your college education, you will need money for books, food, clothes and going out. If you start saving during your junior year of high school, you can accumulate a nice nest egg for your freshman year of college.

Learn more about planning for college at StateUniversity.com.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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