3 Areas for High School Juniors To Focus This Fall

It may be hard to believe, but junior year is here. This is your last chance to wow colleges with your academic performance—and that tends to stress out students and parents alike. As we meet with rising juniors, we can see that stress. We understand the anxiety that comes with embarking on an unfamiliar college admissions process.

That said, if you’re not already thinking about what you should be doing to prepare, you definitely should be! Fortunately, we know just the right steps to take to get yourself off to a great start this September:

1.    Focus on academics. Colleges look closely at your junior year academic performance, so academics should be your top focus. Take the most rigorous course load you can manage, and get the best grades you can. Having a strict game plan will help you stay focused, so come up with a strategy for approaching each semester—and stick to it. A little forethought and a lot of hard work can help you register an impressive academic performance this year.

2.    Take the initiative in extracurricular activities. Colleges love applicants who demonstrate “depth” in their activities. This often requires taking the initiative to take steps to turn an idea into reality. Traditionally, this might mean founding a club or starting a new school program, but it can also involve interests, activities, and causes that have nothing to do with your school and can have much broader impact. The key is to turn ideas into actions and, ideally, create something that you can go on to write, teach, or make presentations about.

3.    Keep an open mind when considering colleges. There are more than 3,000 schools out there. Chances are, there’s a fair number you’ve never even heard of that would be an amazing fit for you. This year, focus on getting to know yourself better—your academic interests and goals, social needs, etc.—so you can make a smarter, more informed decision when it’s time to choose the right school for you.

At this point, college can still seem pretty far off. But your junior year will play an outsize role in determining which schools you can get into—and which you can’t. This year, you’ll be studying for and taking standardized tests, creating your college list, and starting to think about applications. It can be a challenging time for many families—if you let it, getting ready for college can consume all your free time. This fall, focusing on the 3 core areas above can help keep your stress to a minimum.