“Where will you go to college?” Individually, these six words are seemingly simple, but collectively they can pose a daunting challenge. High school juniors may believe this question can be delayed until senior year, but much can be done now to lay the groundwork to college discovery. As juniors embark on their spring semesters, here are seven simple strategies to get started:
1.) Focus on Grades: According to a recent report published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), high school grades are the most important determinant in college admission decisions. Maintaining high marks in challenging classes should continue to be a top priority and will pay dividends come decision time.
2.) Develop Test Prep Strategies: Junior year is the perfect time to sketch out testing timelines. JKCF Educational Adviser Marissa Steinberger offers this strategic approach: “I’m not a believer in taking tests just for the sake of taking tests. I often recommend that juniors take both the SAT and ACT during their junior year so that they can see which test they are stronger in and then re-take that one in the fall of senior year after some focused test prep.” Juniors may also consider consulting with their guidance counselors to discuss fee waiver eligibility. For more information on how to register for these tests and gather test-taking tips, visit:
3.) Think About College Fit: There are many elements to college fit—size, location, distance from home, academic offerings, programs of study, extracurricular activities, and diversity to name a few. Discovering fit may take time, and though criteria may evolve, juniors can begin to shape their mold now:
- Find Your Dream School
- Find Your College Fit
- 10 Questions to Help You Determine the Right College Fit
4.) Stay Informed: In this day and age, information abounds. As vision of college fit begins to come into focus, juniors should visit college websites to get a sense of what’s offered, what the application process entails, and what the requirements for admission are. As juniors begin to locate schools that spark interest, they should add contact information to the school’s mailing list (with a professional email address, of course).
5.) Make Connections: JKCF Young Scholars have access to a network of College Scholars or JKCF alumni from which to garner valuable insight. Young Scholars in their junior year should take advantage of this web by discussing college interests with their educational advisers, who may be able to put them in contact with College Scholars or alumni from schools of interest. Another important connection to make is with high school guidance counselors that may be able to establish connections and steer all juniors, not just our Young Scholars, in the right direction.
6.) Make Visits: When ready, juniors should consider visiting college campuses. And when that time comes, be sure to make the most of the visit. “Begin by looking for college visit days and programs designed for junior students. If the college does not have a specific day, or you are unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts, then contact the college to schedule a campus tour and information session on a day that works for you,” offers JKCF Educational Adviser Patrick Wu. One of Patrick’s Young Scholars, Loriya Thao, a senior from Minnesota, adds, “and don’t look at the sticker price of the college when you’re visiting. Try to focus on the school and what it has to offer.”
7.) Research Scholarship Opportunities: It’s no secret—college is expensive. But there are resources available to make it more affordable. While we’re quick to tout the JKCF College Scholarship, its deadline coincides with the fall of senior year. There are, however, other scholarship opportunities designed specifically for high school juniors that should be investigated now. Also make sure to check out:
- 7 Search Tools That Scholarship Seekers Should Use
- Funding College Education 101
- College Greenlight: Tool for Researching Colleges and Scholarships
These are just a few starting stepping stones. Be on the lookout for more advice in the coming months!