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What Incoming High School Juniors Should Focus on this Year

Updated: Feb 17

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This Fall, sign up to take your first PSAT/NMSQT in October or November. The goal is to take at least two your Junior year. If applicable, take at least one round of SAT II’s (SAT, SAI Reasoning). It’s good to take an ACT or SAT test during the Fall, but only if you’ve completed Algebra ll; otherwise, it’s better to wait until later in the year when your skills in that area are more developed. Strive to get off to a good start in your academic classes, and establish a rapport with your teachers, as you will be asking a couple of them for letters of recommendation when the time comes.

This winter, finalize your standardized test registration and make a timeline for testing dates. Kaplan has one free online practice test each month, and the added practice can be very helpful.

In the spring you should start building a resume including any awards, honors, extracurricular activities and any other accomplishments. Also provide this information to the teachers who will be writing your letters of recommendation so that they have specific things they can say about you in their letters, which can give the college admissions officers some idea as to what kind of person you are beyond academics. It’s your job to give your teachers as much information as you can so that their job is easier. Be sure to thank the teachers who have written letters for you, and a hand-written Thank You note can be a nice gesture. Teachers have a lot on their plates and don’t get paid any extra to write recommendation letters. Spring is also a great time to start visiting schools of interest.

Continue to work the college list over the Summer. Research each college on the list to see if it’s a good fit for you. If they offer what you’re interested in, research the school for affordability and specific application requirements. This is also the time to begin college essays; the more you work on them, the better impression you’ll make. In particular, create a Common Application account at commonapp.org, and look at the essay prompts. Choose the one that fits you best, and make sure that it is 650 words or less of your best writing. Finally, this is a good time begin your scholarship search, as the more you apply for, the more money you can get for college. Have a fantastic Junior year!

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