Here’s Your Junior Year College Search Timeline

Posted by IPFW Admissions Team on 5/10/18 4:45 PM

You look back on your freshman and sophomore years as ancient history. You're about to crush your Junior year classes like a boss. And as you do that, you can begin your college search in earnest.

But where should you be in your hunt for the perfect school? That's a great question—and we have some great answers. Check out this broad timeline for your college search as you head into 11th grade.


Summer before junior year

  • Being thinking about ideal colleges. You don’t need to create a formal list or do in-depth research yet, but you should start thinking about what type of college to attend and begin considering a few specific options.

  • Get involved at high school! Colleges love seeing involved students, so invest the time to join clubs, find extracurricular activities, or volunteer your expertise. Pick at least one club or student organization that you feel strongly about and participate in it consistently. If you’re already in one or more clubs, think about joining another one or taking on a leadership role—but don’t let these responsibilities interfere with your studies. Schoolwork comes first.

Fall semester

  • Start researching your ideal colleges. Gather information about different schools based on the type of learning environment and location you think will suit you best. Make a list of at least four colleges and gather details like average GPA, private or public, size, average financial aid packages, and anything else that stands out to you.

  • Take the PSAT. The PSAT is a great way to get comfortable with the standardized test format. It will also help you determine eligibility for a National Merit Scholarship (it’s also called the NMSQT). Some students elect to take the PSAT earlier, but the scores from junior year are the ones that count for a National Merit Scholarship.

  • Review SAT or ACT preparation material. You probably won’t take the SAT or ACT test until spring of your junior year, but now is a great time to start preparing. You can get a study guide with practice tests in most any bookstore for $40 or less, or consider joining a formal preparation class or study program if it’s in your family’s budget.

  • Think about your future career. No one expects you to know what you want to do for the rest of your life at 16 or 17, but you need to start thinking about it now. Answering this question usually takes longer than people think it will. If you already know for certain what you want to do, research colleges with the best majors or programs of study to lead you down that desired path.

Spring semester

  • Take the SAT or ACT. No matter which standardized test you take, it will have a significant impact on your college search. That said, don’t be nervous—if you take the tests in your junior year, you can always re-take them as a senior to improve your score, if necessary.

  • Start narrowing down your college list. As your junior year comes to an end, start whittling down your list of potential colleges. Use criteria like your budget, how far a school is from home, and how difficult it is to get in.

  • Learn about available scholarships. It’s never too early to start researching scholarships, even if the application deadlines are months away. The more scholarships you apply for, the better chance that you’ll get some form of financial aid to help pay for college.

  • Visit some colleges (or at least schedule them). Colleges love it when prospective students come for a visit, especially while the semester is in session. Start with schools in your area that are within easy driving distance.

The summer after junior year you should continue researching schools, applying for scholarships, and visiting more colleges you’re interested in attending. If you use it wisely, 11th grade can be a springboard that pushes your college search ahead and gives you an even better chance of getting into your dream school.

For a college search timeline that covers all four years of high school and offers some great advice to prospective students, check out our Ultimate College Decision Timeline guide. Download it below!

Download the checklist - The Ultimate College Decision Timeline

Topics: Application Timeline, For High School Juniors





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