Your 3 Biggest Junior Year College Search Decisions
With your first two years of high school behind you, it’s time to make your first serious decisions about college. Students really begin their college search in their junior year, and start thinking hard about what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
It may sound a little daunting, but if you start early, take your time, and research as much as possible, junior-year decisions won’t overwhelm you. To help you start the process, begin with these three college decisions. With these choices successfully under your belt, you're ready to dive deeper into the process.
SAT versus ACT
For years (including when your parents graduated from high school), the SAT was the standardized test for prospective college students, no questions asked. Things changed since then, though, and the ACT is a much bigger deal. In fact, in 2012 the number of students who took the ACT surpassed the number of students who took the SAT. (Take that, SAT!)
These days, most schools accept both tests. The tests have some similarities, but their formats are very different—the SAT, revised in 2016, has three sections worth up to 800 points with an optional essay, and the ACT has four sections and is scored out of 36. The two best factors to use when deciding whether to take the ACT or SAT are which test you perform best on, and which test the schools you’re applying to prefer.
In-state versus out-of-state
This is a tough one. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the in-state/out-of-state question. A lot of this depends largely on the type of person you are and the kind of experience you want from college. Attending a local school means you stay around your family and friends in a familiar environment. Going to a school far away exposes you to a different culture and group of students where you might fit in even better.
Your college budget will make a big impact on this choice. Because they’re funded by the state, public schools charge more tuition to out-of-state students. Talk to your parents, friends, teachers, and advisors to get more information—but only you can make the final decision about where you’ll attend college.
Picking a major versus starting undecided
Some people know exactly what they want to study and the kind of career they want before they even start thinking about college. Others still don’t know even after they get to college. Most students land somewhere in the middle, with a few ideas about majors, but still not exactly sure.
While declaring a specific major on your application gives you some advantages, especially for colleges with highly competitive programs, it’s perfectly fine to not know what you want to study. But the earlier you start thinking about which career path fits you best, the easier it’ll be to decide on your major.
These are just a few of the college search decisions ahead for you—there will be more throughout your junior year and beyond. Just take one step at a time, focus on what you can control, and start early so you don’t rush through the process.
For more information on how to handle your college search in high school, check out our Ultimate College Decision Timeline.