Why Junior Year is the Most Important Year in High School

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Embarking on the winding road towards college can be a turbulent journey for students and parents alike. Yet, fear not, for with diligent preparation during your junior year, you can transform this daunting process into a streamlined, well-guided, and triumphant experience. However, the unique challenge of junior year lies in its absence of rigid deadlines. Junior year is all about you as a person and your unique pursuits. As a high school freshman, you were still very much influenced by peers and teachers. You were shy and a bit insecure. Sophomore year was a bit better, as you had started finding your voice and getting the hang of due dates and managing different teachers' expectations by staying organized, but now, in junior year, you are at a juncture that demands exceptional self-determination and impeccable organizational acumen and beckons you to delve deeper into your potential, forging a path brimming with leadership opportunities, scholarly excellence, and meaningful connections. What makes junior year in high school SO important is the fact that most colleges look for your grades in grade 11 to determine how well you have performed so far. Any slips as a first- or second-year student are normal, but junior year should be up and up the trajectory line.

Academic COURSES DO Matter

We recommend taking as many AP / Honors courses as you can manage. This is the last year colleges will see complete grades for when you apply, so make it count. Choose your AP / Honors courses wisely; try to pick classes that interest you—it'll be easier to do well in them and help craft your narrative.

Build your schedule around whatever you want: if you'd like to be a Spanish Major, be sure to take AP Spanish or whatever the highest level of Spanish is offered at your school. Similarly, if you plan to do little with languages in college but are looking more into STEAM, take that AP Spanish out of your schedule and add APP CompSci or a similar course showcasing your love for tech and STEM. If you're more interested in medicine, take AP Biology. If you don't quite know yet, take as many higher-level courses as possible to sample various subjects, but reflect on your passions and interests and orient yourself toward a major. As much as you might be thinking that you have time or hearing about going to college to discover yourself, once you begin filling out the application, you will be asked by colleges what your major or prospective major will be (yes, even the colleges that state that you do not have to have a major figured out yet)


If you still need to take the ACT/SAT, take them during your junior year. We know, we know. Everything is test-optional now. Our clients are still taking the tests, doing well on them, and submitting them. 

Study for the SAT/ACT on your own or with a tutor; you can find various resources online to help you prepare. 

EXTRACURRICULARS Can Make Or Break Your Application

This is the best time to look into leadership roles in your clubs and activities. Run for positions in the clubs you like and feel you can make a difference for others and yourself: having a leadership position is better than being a 'member' of many organizations. If you don't have many extracurriculars, develop your interests. All of our students build niche interests. If you think you're interested in Biology, take a few online courses and join clubs to determine which niche within biology interests you. Some people love animals; some love plants. We help all of our students figure out their micro-niche—joining a bunch of clubs and padding your resume does not help you get into a top-tier school.

If you're involved in too many clubs, consider reducing your participation to a few more critical organizations. We are going for quality over quantity here. Joining too many clubs will waste your time and prevent you from excelling in any one role. It'll also prevent you from showing your genuine interest. Don't spread yourself too thin. There is a tendency to join clubs for quantity and not quality. This could be a big mistake as you will gain nothing in return, and just stuffing your resume is absolutely not worth the time and energy. It doesn't pay back.


You should develop a connection with your college counselor/guidance counselor if you haven't yet. They'll be a great ally during your application process, and it's best to have them in your corner as soon as possible. Similarly, it would help if you considered which teachers could write good recommendations for you. Ask them for those recs in March or April so that they have time to plan. 


You should also build out a college list and start visiting schools. See as many schools as possible and consider what you liked/disliked about each one. You want a list of 8-12 schools for your eventual applications. Think about what's realistic for you based on your GPA, scores, and extracurriculars, and run your list by your parents and guidance counselor.

Attend college webinars and visit as many college campuses as you can. Aim at the schools on your list that will be your top choice and require you to apply early -- ED/EA. Have a checklist and start crossing out the places you dislike (trust us, there'll be some). Consider what you value in a school—urban or rural, liberal arts or state university—and build your list to fit your preferences. Need more guidance visit VOICED.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Keep a healthy balance with activities, courses, and self-care—don't burn yourself out taking 10 AP courses. Junior year is a time to prepare, but it should also be fun.

Junior year is "the college year," and it is a big logistics year, so the most significant thing to do is get your ducks in a row. Go through all the things you must do junior year and when they should be done. 

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