Now into the back half of high school, junior year is the time for students to take the steps necessary to either improve or solidify their collegiate applications.
All students as juniors should be taking classes in the following areas:
English, math, science, social science, and foreign language. Most students will take Algebra 2, Trigonometry, or Pre-Calculus for math, Biology, Chemistry, or Physics for science, and United Stated History as their social science.
In October, all 11th graders should take the PSAT.
Juniors taking the PSAT have the opportunity to achieve National Merit Scholarship recognition based upon how their scores compare to other juniors across the country and within their own state. Not only does achieving National Merit recognition allow for a student to potentially receive money for college, but this achievement is also noted on a student’s college application.
Students looking to apply to the most competitive colleges should also explore taking SAT Subject Tests as juniors.
It is important to note that the Subject Test expectations for each college are different, so it is important for students to consult with their guidance/college counselor when deciding which exams to take. For students taking Advanced Placement exams junior year, it's a good idea to take that particular SAT Subject Test at or near the same time as the Advanced Placement exam, so that the student can take both exams when their subject area expertise is at its peak.
Continue participation in extracurriculars and potentially ascend into leadership roles.
For students that have not participated in extracurricular activities to this point in time, it is important to get involved to both build their leadership skills and to enrich their college applications.
Opportunities for Growth
For academically high achieving juniors, it is necessary to support this previous work with elite scores on standardized assessments. For all of the time a student spends in the classroom, completing homework, and studying for tests, the single ACT/SAT score accounts for 25%-35% of what colleges consider. A student does not want a four-hour test to undermine thousands of hours of work.
For these students, it is also important to identify motivations to continue the work that has led to success during the previous two years. One way to drive student motivation is provide specific examples as to why achieving good grades and high scores on standardized exams continues to be important. Beyond just the motivation of going to college, it is important for students identify what particular college(s) they hope to attend, what they hope to study or achieve when they get to college, and what they may want to do after college. Establishing firm goals and objective finish lines can motivate a student’s sustained achievement despite his or her increased workload.
It is also essential that these students enrich their college applications beyond academic achievement and standardized test scores. The most competitive colleges receive numerous applications from students who have received top grades in the classroom and elite scores on standardized exams. The activities that appear in a student’s application beyond transcripts and test scores demonstrate the unique qualities that he or she will bring to an incoming class at a college. Extracurricular accomplishments provide the opportunity for a student to tell a story beyond his or her classroom achievement.
Juniors that have received less than elite academic results have one final opportunity to demonstrate the skills and content mastery that are necessary to give their Grade Point Average the extra bump that can help distinguish their college applications from the crowd.
Ascending from predominantly B’s to predominantly A’s is also important for the class choices a student has as a senior. If a student has not yet taken Advanced Placement classes to this point, receiving A’s during junior year may position him or her to gain entry to these classes in 12th grade. Taking these courses and receiving passing scores on the associated exams can allow a student to gain collegiate credit while still in high school. A significant part of this push to the top of the grade scale will be developing a student mindset that even at this later part of high school, and beyond, he or she can be an “A student.”
C or Below Students
Juniors that are receiving predominantly C grades or below have a final opportunity to improve their high school academic performance and significantly improve the Grade Point Average that appears on their academic transcript. It is important to note that many colleges positively view an upward trajectory in a student’s grades.
This skill building not only allows for higher grades in the interim, but it will also have residue in student performance on the standardized exams that students take towards the end of junior year. This is particularly important as a high ACT/SAT score provides an opportunity for these students to somewhat balance a lower Grade Point Average when applying to college.
Similar to standardized exams, extracurricular activities provide an opportunity for students to provide a more well-rounded impression when applying to college. Leadership roles in sports, student organizations, or student activities can provide depth to a student’s profile beyond the quantitative measures of Grade Point Average and standardized test scores.