Each year of school is important in its own way. Middle school prepares you for the academic rigor of high school, which in turn gets you ready to take higher education classes. You wouldn’t be the person you are today, academically and socially, without all the years of school you completed.
But when it comes to choosing and applying to colleges, your 11th grade year of school makes a bigger impact than any other. We identified five reasons your junior year should be the time to get serious about your search for the perfect college.
1. You’ll take the SAT
Sure, you can take the SAT as a senior, but PrepScholar says that taking the SAT in January, May, or June of your junior year makes the most sense. Taking the SAT in 11th grade is perfect timing; you get the first half of the year to study and prepare for the test, but if you don’t do as well as you’d like, you have an entire summer to study before taking it again in the fall of your senior year.
2. Serious college research begins
Freshman year is focused on making the transition to high school, while sophomore year is about getting established and building on the lessons you learned. Granted, it’s never too early to start thinking about college, but most students really get serious about their search in 11th grade. Use your junior year to make lists, compare schools head-to-head, and get some first-hand experience observing life on campus with a visit.
3. You start visiting college campuses
Catalogs and brochures give you good information, but nothing beats visiting an interesting school. Walking around the campus and taking in the vibe gives you a whole different perspective on the school’s people and places. Maybe you visited a local campus to visit a friend or relative when you were younger, but most students begin seriously visiting colleges they’re considering during their junior year—especially if their list includes schools in a different city or state.
4. You increase your AP class load
You can take AP courses as a freshman or sophomore, but most high school students take on a serious load of AP classes in their junior year. According to PrepScholar, junior year students should take as many AP classes as they can handle, as long as they don’t negatively affect other obligations like studying for the SAT or ACT. If you’re applying to a highly selective school in the Ivy League, you might want to take as many as six AP classes. There’s no magic number of AP courses that will automatically earn you a spot at your ideal college—most schools just want to see that you made the most of the opportunities available to you and performed well in classes.
5. You become an upperclassman
Your status as an upperclassman goes deeper than just being older than half of the students in your school. Socially and emotionally, you begin your transition to the adult world.
Look for opportunities during your junior year to show leadership and responsibility, both inside and outside the classroom. Traits like these can get overlooked when applying for college, but schools care just as much about your character as your GPA. Round out these sections of your college application by taking high-ranking positions in clubs, volunteering for community organizations, and representing your school to others.
Junior year is a key time in your academic career. You understand the atmosphere and structure of high school classes, but you still have plenty of time to improve your grades and prepare yourself for college. If you try your best, create a plan, and keep your goals in mind, you can take advantage of 11th grade and make it a pivotal year in your college search.
Want more information about what you should be doing each year of high school? Check out our Ultimate College Decision Timeline for more details on how your college search should progress.