What to Do as a Junior to Prepare for College

Junior year is a crucial year in the college admissions journey. Searching for the right schools. Visiting campuses. Focusing on grades. And, those dreaded SATs and ACTs. There is so much to cover in what seems like a short period of time that it can all feel incredibly overwhelming.

We want students to be in the best position possible, so we have created an organizational checklist, complete with links to blogs and videos that contain tips and strategies for all the things you need to be doing as a junior to prep for college applications.

Junior College Applications To Do List

Research Colleges

The college search is THE most important part of the college admissions journey. It is so essential to ask the right questions and search within yourself so you can find the schools that could be the right fit for you. If you haven’t already, junior year is the time to do your research and identify colleges that are a SAFE match – Socially, Academically, Financially and Emotionally. You are probably thinking to yourself, but what should I be looking for? Don’t worry. We have plenty of resources to help:

How to Begin the College Search

How to Find the Best College for Me

What to Look for When Searching for Colleges?

What Size College Is Best for Me?

How to Research for Colleges Online


  • Prep for and Take the SAT/ACT

Although under present circumstances many colleges are waiving SAT/ACT requirements, meaning they are going “Test Optional”, we recommend that students still take the tests. A good score could help with your admissions chances. As with everything else, preparation is the key to success. If possible, you should consider hiring a private tutor to help you prep for the test. Plan to take the tests in the late fall of your junior year (November SAT, December ACT), decide which is a better test for you, prep some more, then take that test again in the spring, possibly in June and/or over the summer. These blogs and videos will help you plan accordingly:

Will Colleges Require SATs for the Class of 2022?

Signing Up for the SAT

Should I Send SAT Scores to Test Optional Schools?

When Do You Send SAT Scores to Colleges?

How Do You Send SAT Scores to Colleges?

How Long Does It Take Colleges to Receive SATs?


  • Visit Colleges

Visiting colleges – either in person or virtually – is the ideal way to start narrowing down your college list. You want to get a true feel for the school – how large the campus is, how modern the facilities are, what the library is like, available housing and dining options, student life, etc. If physically touring the school is not possible, you can still get a good sense through online tools. Most colleges are now offering virtual experiences, which you can usually access through the admissions sections of their websites. We also recommend gathering information about the schools from unigo.com, colleges.niche.com, campusreel.org and campustours.com. You should also sign up for the information sessions at colleges in which you are interested as they can be a valuable source of information. For more information, check out the following links:

How Do You Set Up a College Visit?

How Do Online Virtual College Tours Work?

College Visit Checklist

What to Bring on a  College Visit

Good Questions to Ask on a College Tour


  • Ask Teachers for Letters of Recommendation

You will need to submit letters of recommendation with your college applications. These letters should be from teachers who know you well and can write something positive about you, preferably from core courses in 10th or 11th grade, with 1 being from 11th grade, if possible. Note that these letters are about character and work ethic, not about grades. So think carefully about who could write the best letters for you. Ask those teachers during the second half of your junior year because if you wait until the fall of your senior year, they may not have the time. And remember to thank them for their help.

What Is a Teacher Evaluation for a College Application?


  • Set Up Naviance

Ask your guidance counselor if your school uses Naviance. If so, utilize this online tool to help with your research and organize your list of schools. You can compare your grades and credentials to other students from your school who were accepted or declined to schools on your list in the “Scattergram” section. Your school may also use Naviance to house your letters of recommendation and send your transcripts. So make sure you know how your school uses Naviance and if they do, connect it/match it to the Common App so you can make sure your application process is a smooth one.

How to Connect Naviance to the Common App


  • Start Your Student Resume

You will be asked to provide A LOT of information on your college applications. To streamline the process, we recommend creating a student resume. What is that? A student resume is a document that lists all of your activities (athletics, extracurricular, internships, community service, work experience and anything else you spend time on outside of academics). Ideally, you would have started this list your freshman year, but if not, you should get a jump on it as soon as possible. These links will help:

How to Make an Activities Resume for College Applications

What Do Colleges Look for in Extracurricular Activities?


  • Work on Your College Essay

Towards the end of junior year or during the early part of your summer before senior year is the perfect time to get a head start on your college application essay. You don’t want to wait until the last minute. You want to take your time and craft an essay that will leave a lasting impression. A well-written application essay can be an opportunity to tip the admissions scales in your favor. In fact, it can make the difference between getting accepted and being declined. Here are some tips to help get you started:

How to Write a Good College Essay

How Do I Start a College Essay?

Can You Use the Same Essay for Different College Applications?

When Should You Write the Essay?

What Is a Supplemental Essay?


  • Finalize Your List of Schools

When you start your college search, the list of schools can be HUGE. As you “visit” the schools and learn more about them, you will be able to start whittling down your list. If you are having difficulty, the following blog will help.

How to Narrow Down the College Search


  • Work on Applications

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Although the new Common App does not come out until August 1st, you can still start those college applications. You can complete the general information sections and then that information is automatically transferred in to the new application when it becomes available. Completing the general information early will make the application process that much simpler when you are busy during your fall semester of senior year. The following articles and videos will help you along the way:

Tips for the Common Application

What to Put on Your College Application

Do All Colleges Use the Common App?

When Is the Best Time to Fill Out Applications?

How to Get Ready for College Applications?

We highly recommend that you bookmark this page. The To Do List will keep you on track as you push through your junior year and all of the blogs and videos will answer the many questions you may have along the college admissions journey.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone and by email.

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