Can You Apply to College As a High School Junior?

 

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For most students, the path to college involves four years of high school, a high school diploma, and a college acceptance received sometime during 12th grade, but this isn’t the case for everyone. There are many less traditional routes to college that end in the same result. Some students take a gap year or even more extended time off before going to college. Others take college classes alongside their high school coursework. Still more apply to college early.

 

If you’re thinking about applying to college as a high school junior, you may wonder what this route will entail. Do you need a high school diploma? Do you still have to meet core requirements for your high school classes? Do standardized testing requirements change? If you’re interested in applying to college as a high school junior, this post is for you.

 

 

Are 11th Graders Allowed to Apply to College?

The first question you probably have is whether or not you’re even allowed to apply to college during your junior year of high school. You can look at this from two angles.

 

First, you’ll need to consider your high school. While your high school technically cannot actually prevent you from applying to college at any point, they can sometimes be more supportive than others.

 

If you’re serious about applying to college as an 11th grader, at some point you’ll need to solicit the support of your high school. At the very least, this will often come in the form of advice from your guidance counselor and recommendations from your teachers. You can apply to college without the support of these people, but it will be more difficult to do so if they don’t think you’re making a good choice.

 

For example, your letters of recommendation may not be as strong as they would be if you waited until senior year. Can your high school keep you from applying to college as a junior? No, but they can certainly make it more difficult if they aren’t in support of your decision.

 

From the perspective of a college, most colleges will allow high school juniors to apply, but in general there is no specific route to doing so, so you’ll be subject to the same standards and application process as everyone else. At some colleges, a high school diploma, GED, or other proof of completing your high school curriculum is required. In addition, some colleges require a certain number of core classes, like four years of English.

 

If you want to apply to college as a high school junior, you’ll need to do your research to be certain that you meet all of the requirements for applying to the colleges you’re most interested in. Because this is a less traditional route, you will need to do more legwork to ensure that you’re eligible for each college before applying.

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How to Plan For Standardized Testing When You Want to Apply to College in 11th Grade

Another logistic that you’ll need to juggle carefully is standardized testing. Because you’re applying on an abbreviated timeline, you’ll need to get an early start on SAT or ACT prep. In fact, your scores will need to be up to snuff a whole year earlier than they would be should you apply to high school as a 12th grader.

 

In an ideal world, your testing would simply be moved forward one year. This means you’d be taking your first tests during the spring of your 10th grade year, rather than spring of 11th grade. If you need to retake the test (which most students do), you will have time to prepare over the summer and take it again during the fall 11th grade.

 

 

How Colleges Evaluate Your Application If You Apply in 11th Grade

Colleges do not generally consider what grade you are in when you apply to college. This means that the most challenging part of applying for college in 11th grade is often compiling an application strong enough to compete with students who are a year ahead of you.

 

No matter how smart you are, it will be challenging to compile the depth of experience to compete with someone who has had an extra year. Admissions committees will not only compare your grades, but also your extracurriculars, achievements, and honors. If you plan to apply to selective colleges, your application will need to be able to compete with top applications from 12th graders across the country.

 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get into college as a high school junior. It simply means you may have fewer options or will need to be more selective about which colleges you apply to. If you are worried that your application won’t stack up, but you’re ready to begin college level work or are eager to start working towards a career, you might choose to attend a smaller or less competitive college first, and then consider transferring once you’ve proven yourself in a college environment.

 

While applying to college as an 11th grader isn’t easy, it can be a rewarding challenge that allows you to advance towards your career, tackle more challenging classes, and leave high school ahead of schedule.

 

If you feel like you need some guidance along the way or have more questions about the logistics of applying to college as a high school junior, consider enlisting the help of CollegeVine’s Applications Guidance service. Here, you will be paired with a personal admissions specialist from a top a college who can provide step-by-step guidance through the entire application process, from college list to college acceptance.

 

For more information about 11th grade and preparing for college applications, don’t miss these CollegeVine posts:

 

Your Guide to Junior Year Course Selection

Getting Ready to Apply to College: Junior Year

Dealing With Junior Year Stress

A Guide to Extracurricular Activities: Grade 11

10 Considerations For Making Your College List

The College List, Decoded: Safety, Target, and Reach Schools

How To Build Your Killer Admissions Team

How to Qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program

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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.