What should I be doing second semester junior year?

At the start of the second semester of your junior year, you may be looking around at your senior friends wondering, “What should I be doing to prepare for college admissions right now?” Now is the time for juniors to be planning college visits, establishing leadership roles in extracurricular activities, focusing on schoolwork and cultivating relationships within their communities.?

By DANI PARKS

Your junior year is a critical time to lay the groundwork for your college applications, so if you’re asking yourself, “What should I be doing during the second semester of my junior year,” you’re in the right place. It’s the time to prepare grades for college admissions officers to inspect, plan for summer programs, volunteer work, and senior community projects, and cement leadership roles in extracurricular activities. On top of all that, juniors should be planning for college visits, letters of recommendation, and scholarship opportunities. Let’s get started.

Now is the time for juniors to be planning college visits, establishing leadership roles in extracurricular activities, focusing on schoolwork and cultivating relationships within their communities.

Plan ahead.

First things first: let’s start with forming a plan. During the second semester of your junior year, you’re going to want to implement an organizational strategy that you can stick to throughout the entirety of your admissions process. Begin drafting your resume, brainstorming personal statement ideas, listing colleges that interest you, and keeping track of deadlines.

Plan for your summer.

Consider your options for having a productive summer. You could work, volunteer, study, intern, and/or travel. As your last summer before applying to colleges, what you do matters. If you are interested in a competitive college program, like Math at Stanford, you really should be exploring competitive summer programs, like the PROMYS.

Plan college visits.

The second semester of your junior year is the ideal time to be researching and visiting colleges. Take a look at a variety of colleges from urban to rural to big to small. This is also a good time to be having a conversation with your family to decide what colleges fit your financial and geographic criterion. Keep in mind many colleges now offer virtual visits. YouVisit is a site dedicated to virtual college visits and even lets you explore and filter by location, campus type, and tuition.

Pro tip:

Keep a close eye on all deadlines (competitive summer programs have January, February, and March application deadlines). Reserve spots for college visits ahead of time; once they’re filled, they’re filled. Make a college tier list including your reach, target, and safety schools to kickstart your college visits.

Hit the books.

Forgive the sports metaphor, but the second semester of junior year should be an academic Hail Mary. When colleges start looking at your transcripts, your second semester junior year grades will be the most recent complete sample of your academic profile. 

Get your numbers in order.

Juniors should be taking as many advanced placement classes as possible without sacrificing their GPAs. Academic rigor matters more than ever so stay focused and on top of deadlines.

Prep for your tests.

AP, IB, SAT, and ACT exams are their own animals and one of the very best ways to be prepared for the exams is to practice, practice, practice. During the second semester of your junior year, you should be dedicating time to learning about the exams and taking as many practice tests as possible. Even if you believe you know the material, your body probably isn’t used to sitting in one spot for four hours straight. Taking practice tests helps with both mastering the content, learning the ins and outs of each exam style, and training your body and mind to work together to stay focused. Consider incorporating a test prep manual, like the ones from The Princeton Review, College Board, or Khan Academy.

Pro tip:

Dedicate a weekend morning to taking a practice test. Every week. Don’t wait until the first semester of your senior year to take your first SAT or ACT; you’re going to be very busy then. Give yourself room in your schedule to retake the exams, should that be necessary.

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Get established.

By the time juniors are in their second semester, they should be involved in 2-3 extracurricular activities. They should also be thinking about their current relationships with the teachers, coaches, and counselors they’d like to ask to write their letters of recommendation. 

Get involved.

Juniors should be considering how they can cement their community involvement through their extracurricular activities. As mentioned above, juniors should be involved in 2-3 extracurricular activities, and by the time their second semester rolls around, should be establishing their leadership positions.

Think about your recommenders.

Imagine your first one-on-one conversation with a teacher is asking them for a letter of recommendation. That doesn’t sound great, does it? Establish relationships with teachers from whom you’d like to eventually ask for letters of recommendation. We recommend juniors cultivate relationships with one STEM teacher, one humanities teacher, and one counselor.

Pro tip:

If you haven’t already, make it a habit to check in with your counselor once a month. This will establish a good rapport, keep you up to date with all things admissions, and help you keep on top of deadlines.

Speaking of your counselor…

As your school’s filter for scholarships and programs, it’s important they know your interests. Juniors should meet with their counselors and establish a rapport.

Put your interests on their radar.

When school counselors receive news and information about scholarships and opportunities, they are going to be thinking about which students to whom they should pass that information along. If you’ve cultivated a rapport with your counselor, and they’re thus familiar with your interests, then you will have that much more access to specialized information.

Scholarships? Already?

Let’s circle back to the beginning of this article: plan ahead. Since we’re sure you have so much extra free time, we recommend juniors plan for scholarships, too. Wait – you don’t have much extra free time, do you? So why not kill two birds with one stone? 

We’ve recommended juniors get a kick start on their summer programs at this time, as well as ensure they’re establishing their involvement in extracurriculars. Think about how your summer programs, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities could connect to a scholarship opportunity. 

Pro tip:

Think smarter not harder. Go to scholarships.com, search your area of interest, browse the opportunities you qualify for, and brainstorm how you could connect the application to an extracurricular or senior community project.

The bottom line for all our recommendations is to stay organized. Juniors need to be on top of all deadlines and looking ahead.

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A college consultant is not necessary for every student, but we believe that every family can benefit from an initial consultation, where we can discuss your expectations and see if we’re a good fit. Whether you meet the above criteria or not, we’d love to hear from you.

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