- Pay attention to your mental health and well-being.
- Develop a specialized profile (but keep your grades up in all courses).
- Avoid overcommitting.
- Don’t stress too much about college; if you do what you can towards your college goals now, you’ll be in good shape later on.
Attention Sophomores: What You Can Expect Junior and Senior Year
Now that you’re a sophomore, high school feels a little different from how it did freshman year. By now, you’ve probably adjusted to the new demands of high school and are in the thick of your extracurricular activities. You’re also probably looking ahead and wondering what to expect as you transition into becoming an upperclassman. You’ll be facing new challenges as well as plenty of opportunities. Wondering what you can expect? Read on to find out what’s in the cards junior and senior year and how you can make the most of your time.
Rising Junior Year
Junior year is a decision and planning period. You should be thinking about and getting a head start on college applications, which will be here before you know it.
You may have taken the PSAT as a sophomore. It’s a good idea to take it again as a junior. Since you’ll be taking the SAT in the spring of this year—maybe even more than once—you can use your PSAT results to guide your studying and figure out which areas need more focus.
Make sure to schedule your first SAT early enough for you to take it more than once if you need to. Consult our guide to SAT Test Dates and Deadlines for 2017-2018 for information for this school year.
If you haven’t already, start visiting schools (preferably starting the summer before junior year) and gathering information about colleges. There are a lot of factors you’ll need to consider: urban vs. rural, big vs. small, liberal arts vs. research university, and so on.
Discuss your plans and goals with your guidance counselor, who should be able to help you narrow down your options and determine what’s appropriate for your goals and profile. By the end of junior year, you should have a list of 6-10 schools to which you’ll apply.
By this point, you should whittle down your extracurriculars to the activities that are truly important to you. It’s not the time to start something new just to pad your resume. However, if there is a club or activity you weren’t able to join or start until junior year, you should do it if it complements your profile and actually demonstrates leadership and initiative.
You should also seek out leadership positions in your current activities. For more advice, check out A Guide to Extracurricular Activities: Grade 11.
For more help preparing for junior year…
Rising Senior Year
Senior year is action time. This is the year you’ll apply and be accepted to colleges.
The summer before senior year, starting gathering all your application materials. In the fall, ask teachers for recommendations, and finalize your paperwork and transcript with your guidance counselor. Complete your applications (usually the Common App or Coalition App) and identify and complete all school-specific supplements.
If you’re not happy with your SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Test scores, take the tests one final time in fall.
If you’re planning on applying to your top-choice school early decision, you’ll need to finish your application in advance of the others on your list. Most ED deadlines are in October. You should decide over the summer if this is the route you want to take, and will need to start planning around then as well. You won’t know the final essay topics until August when applications come out, but you can still work on your other materials.
You’ll probably be taking on more leadership roles senior year. You may be busy with college applications, but don’t fall behind on your commitment to your extracurriculars. For more advice, check out A Guide to Extracurricular Activities: Grade 12.
For more help preparing for senior year…
Summers: A Time to Work Towards Your Goals
Once upon a time, summers meant vacation. Not anymore! Use the summers before your junior and senior year to do something meaningful to you—and something that will impress colleges. That might mean an internship, a paying job, college courses, summer programs, or something completely different and unique.
Factors to Keep in Mind for the Rest of High School
The rest of high school will be busy, but try not to let it overwhelm you. Here are some more tips to keep in mind as you transition into your remaining two years:
Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for their high school mentees.
Combining mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses, our program provides students with the tools to succeed. As students learn from successful older peers, they develop confidence, autonomy, and critical thinking skills to help maximize their chances of success in college, business, and life.