Thursday, November 23, 2023

Planning for College: Junior Year Checklist

CollegePlanning for College: Junior Year Checklist

Preparing for College: Junior Year of High School Checklist

When your child is in their junior year of high school, college preparation is in full swing. There are many details to explore and consider during this exciting time, like what schools they’re considering attending, the test scores they’ll need to get into their dream school, ideas of what they may study, and of course, the financial planning side of things.

There are many moving parts during this time, and it’s easy for you and your child to become overwhelmed during those final high school years. So, let’s take a look at some of the main points to consider during this time to make sure your child is well-prepared for their college experience.

Why You Need to Prepare for College in 11th Grade

The start of the junior year marks the halfway point in your child’s high school career. So while it may feel a little premature to think about college preparation, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

In many cases, junior year is the last complete year of schooling that colleges consider during their application reviews regarding coursework, grades, and extracurriculars. Thus, this is a crucial year for college preparation for many reasons.

Even still, there are several things you and your student should have taken care of before junior year even begins, like:

  • Getting involved in extracurriculars
  • Volunteering or community service
  • Starting a college savings plan
  • ACT/SAT prep
  • Creating a resume
  • Starting to search for colleges
  • Exploring career options/job shadowing

If any of these elements have been overlooked, pay extra attention to those areas to help your child build a robust college application.

But, these examples of college preparation activities are only the beginning. Continue reading below as we point out some of the exact steps your child should take during junior year to best set them up for success with the college admissions process.

College Preparation Checklist for Junior Year

There is no one way to help your child prepare for college, though there are several crucial items that should be addressed during their junior year. Let’s walk through the most important tasks to take care of throughout 11th grade.

Fall of Junior Year

Help your child start the year strong with some college preparation. This is generally the year they’ll take college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT, so make sure they begin preparation early in the school year. They can even sign up to take the PSAT as a practice for the real thing.

Of course, they’ll need to make sure they’re taking the right coursework and earning good grades all year long that will look good on college applications. It’s also good practice to have them keep their resume up-to-date and continue updating it throughout the year as they earn certain achievements or finish certain courses.

They should be involved with extracurricular activities and even seek leadership roles for a better experience. Plus, they should build good relationships with their teachers this year, as they are likely the ones who will be writing your child’s letters of recommendation.

They may want to start making a list of the potential colleges they’d like to attend. Does this include a two-year or four-year college? Or maybe they plan on attending a vocational or technical school? In any case, they should begin weighing their options now so they can make a well-thought-out choice come time. You could help them plan campus visits and make sure to attend any college fairs and college nights or speak with college representatives who visit your child’s school. 

Winter of Junior Year

It’s easy for your student to take their foot off the gas when it comes to college preparation once winter rolls around. However, they still need to continue on the solid foundation they built for themselves at the beginning of the school year.

During this time, they should continue studying for the ACT and SAT, ensure they’re registered for these exams, and stay involved with extracurriculars. Winter time is also a great time to get involved in the community, as there are many volunteer opportunities around the holiday season.

They can start narrowing down their college choices and plan campus visits if they haven’t already. While on these visits, take note of the various scholarships and financial aid these schools offer and what the qualifications are to apply.

If your child is interested in any internships or summer jobs, there may be deadlines to apply during this time. Winter break may also be a good time for your child to explore their interesting career fields and shadow professionals on the job where permitted.

Spring of Junior Year

During the final portion of the school year, your student can continue on their college preparation path and prepare for a fruitful summer. If they haven’t already, ensure they’re applying to summer jobs or internships to stay busy and active outside school.

This is likely when your child will be preparing their class schedule for their senior year. It will be their last time to prepare for college with their coursework, so make sure they’re taking enough classes that will challenge them. They can even consider options to earn college credit through AP or dual-enrollment courses to get a head start on their college curriculum during their senior year.

Plus, spring usually means it’s exam time, so make sure they’re doing any final preparation and studying for the SAT or ACT.

There may be additional extracurricular activities for the spring semester, so encourage your child to join any new activities that the school offers this time of year. Also, at this time, they can continue their search for scholarships and begin applying as early as possible. Plus, they may want to start contacting coaches, teachers, activity leaders, and employers to write letters of recommendation for their college applications.

Summer Before Senior Year

Summer is a great time for your child to gain experience outside school. It can be a fun and relaxing season, but it’s also a crucial time for your child to build their competitiveness and stand out from other college applicants they’ll be up against. If needed, they can schedule to retake the ACT or SAT for a higher score.

It’s generally a good idea for them to work a summer job to gain experience, build their resumes, and save money for college. Plus, they can begin developing their college application essays and personal statements. If they haven’t yet, make sure they request letters of recommendation from adult figures in their lives.

Please visit colleges during the summer, which can help narrow the list of schools they’d like to attend. Encourage your child to talk to other students who are in college to learn about their experiences and any recommendations they have for college preparation during their senior year.

At this time, gather all the relevant financial information so they can start applying for financial aid as soon as applications are open. Your child should be able to start applying for scholarships during the summer, applying to as many as they qualify for to get the most financial aid possible. Ahead of senior year, ensure all the deadlines for FAFSA, admissions applications, and scholarships.

Prepare for College Financially with a Financial Planner

The good news is that when your child is in their junior year, there’s still a good amount of time left to prepare for college admissions. By following the above tips for college preparation, your child will be in a good position to get into the school they want, and best prepare their applications.

On the financial side of preparing for college, you may still be wondering how you’ll make their college dreams come true. At this point, it’s best if you already have some savings plan in place to help pay for college expenses. However, there are some things you can do over the next couple of years to boost your financial preparedness.

Visit our website to learn more about how you can prepare to pay for your child’s college expenses and join one of our upcoming webinars where we’ll discuss these topics in more detail.

Tom Martin, WMCP®
Tom Martin, WMCP®
Tom Martin, is a financial advisor at Vaylark Financial Services, based in Hartford, Connecticut. He practices in the area of private wealth management offering comprehensive financial planning, custom investment portfolios, tax reduction strategies, risk management, estate and legacy planning, as well as advises on executive compensation and business owner profitability.

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Tom Martin, is a financial advisor at Vaylark Financial Services, based in Hartford, Connecticut. He practices in the area of private wealth management offering comprehensive financial planning, custom investment portfolios, tax reduction strategies, risk management, estate and legacy planning, as well as advises on executive compensation and business owner profitability.

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