If your teen will be a junior this year, you might think you have a year before you need to start thinking about college prep. Wrong. Junior year is when you should hit the ground running. This year sets the stage for the all-important senior year when college applications are submitted. Getting all your ducks in a row during junior year will make the application process smoother and help to present your student in the best possible light.
The Junior Year GPA
College admissions counselors look hard at the GPA from junior year. It’s an important year to show them that the grades are consistent, or at the very least rising from the previous year. Falling grades are an indicator of lack of focus and could hurt a student down the road. This is a good time to schedule a meeting with your student’s high school counselor to discuss progress, and verify that his or her courses are on track for graduation and for the colleges under consideration.
This is the all-important PSAT year. This is the year when it counts. Junior year scores could qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship program. Follow the calendar deadlines and register early. A good score on the PSAT can mean substantial financial aid. To qualify as a National Merit finalist, your student only has to score higher than other students in the same area.
Register for the SAT or ACT and spend this year doing some practice tests online and studying vocabulary. Decide with your child if some kind of test coaching or online test-prep woud help. Decide which test is the best fit.
Preparing for the Essay
Research some college applications and look at the essay topics. Encourage your teen to start thinking about the essay and drafting some preliminary ones. The college essay can often push the admissions officer over the acceptance edge if it’s done well and is unique. Look through the past essays that your student has written and see if any could be adapted for the college essay. Early preparation will assure time for proofing and re-writes. The worst thing your teen can do is submit a misspelled, grammatically incorrect essay as part of a college application.
College fairs and college visits
Junior year is when your student should begin attending those college fairs and visiting college campuses. Many schools excuse students for college visits. Check with your high school registrar for specifics because you might have to complete forms to get the absences excused. Collect business cards and contact information on these visits. These contacts will help later if you have a question regarding a specific school or need a personal contact during the admissions process. Colleges look for students who express interest before applying. The college keeps track and uses visit information when evaluating the application.
Intensify the Scholarship Search
Junior year is the time to “hunker down” and get serious about those scholarship applications. Many are age and grade specific. Create a concise catalog of those scholarships ready for your chilid’s application. If not, don’t panic. There’s still plenty of time to do some research and jump on the scholarship bandwagon. Remember that every scholarship you receive, no matter how small, is free money that you don’t have to pay back. Don’t forget to investigate private scholarships and school-specific scholarships to assure your child applies by the specific deadlines.
Preparing for the FAFSA
The junior calendar year will be the year that the FAFSA will utilize your income tax records to determine your family’s Expected Family Contribution. If there is anything your tax advisor or accountant has told you to do regarding the way colleges view your financial status, this is the year to follow those recommendations.
Review your high school progress
Look at the past two years to see if there are any gaps in your student’s resume. Have your child answer these questions:
Do you need to do some volunteer work?
Are you involved in some type of leadership capacity in at least one activity?
Do your courses and grades show college-level success?
Have you established a relationship with a member of the faculty and with your high school counselor?
Are your extracurricular activities “all over the place” or are they focused?
It’s not too late to remedy any of these situations. Your teen still has time during junior year to get involved, volunteer, get to know mentors, and even become a leader.