Each year in high school, colleges increase their standards for students. While freshman and sophomores may still be navigating the heavy course-load and social environment of high school, colleges expect juniors to balance leadership positions in extracurricular activities, take more APs and Honors than previous years, and perform well on standardized tests (SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests). Moreover, since junior year is the most recent full-year reported on the transcript included in a student’s application, junior year grades are very important. Therefore, the third year of high school is arguably the most important one.
Meeting with counselors and upperclassmen in the spring of sophomore year can help students take rigorous classes that will prepare them for college and build a strong transcript. Taking rigorous classes, adopting officer positions in clubs, and taking a more active role in the community through volunteering shows initiative and balance. Additionally, internships are vital to students understanding their career interests, visualizing themselves in a professional setting, and showing colleges that they have successfully taken initiative and can contribute to organization.
The summer before junior year is the ideal time for SAT and ACT test preparation. In the fall, all juniors take the PSAT, which determines if they will qualify for certain merit-based scholarships. Also, taking standardized tests before college application season starts can help alleviate stress that accompanies the multiple responsibilities of senior year and allows multiple test dates before applications are due.
Junior year teachers typically write letters of recommendation for colleges and universities since they know the most recent academic performance of the student. It is typical to receive one letter from a humanities teacher and one from a science or math teacher. While it may be tempting to request a letter from the teachers who gave you the highest grades, it is better to choose teachers who know you well and can write in depth about your personal qualities. Speaking to teachers during breaks about interesting lessons or joining clubs they advise can make for a more well-rounded letter, and, in turn, a more well-rounded application.
Lastly, managing stress and balancing activities, school, and friends is difficult. For some, having an outlet such as writing, sports, or photography can help. Exercise and following a healthy diet can help students have energy while they study, sleep regularly, and maintain good mental health. Also, some students find that having a goal in mind – such as a goal SAT/ACT score or dream college or career – will help them persevere through difficult times. Displaying this by making a poster, hanging a college banner, or placing pictures around the room will keep students motivated. Taking time to recharge and destress is always important, whether that he in the form of spending time with friends, walking around the neighborhood, or following an artistic pursuit. Although junior year is extremely important to admissions officers, so is maintaining mental health and having passions beyond scores and grades.