What You Should Be Thinking About as a Junior — Part I: Academics + Standardized Tests

As you prepare to enter the final marking period of your junior year, there are a couple of things that you should be thinking about leading up to the last summer before graduation. Many of the decisions you make in the final stretch of junior year will directly impact your college applications come next fall. Therefore, it’s crucial that you take a moment to consider the things you’ve been doing well, the things you could be doing better, and the things that you haven’t even considered doing yet.

Many juniors want to do their best and excel in this crucial academic year, but sometimes it might be unclear as to what that means. Luckily, Admissions Hero is here to help you break it down. Here are some things that you’ll want to pay attention to:


With five semesters behind you and only one left in front of you before senior year, you should already have a good sense of how you are doing academically. Keeping in mind your schools of choice and their respective requirements, you should already know if you are above, around, or below the expected GPA.

If you are above or around the expected GPA, keep working hard – your job is just to ensure that your grades don’t fall under this metric. As long as your grades are good, your time is best spent improving other parts of your application (to be detailed later).

On the other hand, if you are below the expected GPA, do your best to pull your grades up. Work as hard as you can to make a last minute push to raise your GPA. However, keep in mind that with five semesters to average your new grades against, mathematically speaking your GPA will not change too much.

Sometimes, though, how you do academically in each individual year is more important than your overall GPA – so make sure your junior year transcript as strong as it can possibly be. Colleges will take note!

Standardized Testing:

By now, a large number of juniors will have finished taking their SATs. If you haven’t taken the SAT for the first time yet, it’s highly recommended that you do so soon. If you’ve already taken the SAT once or twice before, remember that it’s not uncommon at all for many juniors to want to take the SAT again. However, as a general rule you should remember that three is the maximum number of times you should take the SAT—a Harvard Admissions Officer once said that if you take the SAT any more than that, you might as well put “Taking the SAT” on your application as one of your extracurricular activities. You can take the SAT up until November of your senior year for Early Action and December of your senior year for Regular Decision.

standardized testing

You should also plan to take SAT IIs this coming May or June. Each college as its own SAT II requirement, but for most schools, two is enough. However, it’s not uncommon for students to take three or four tests. Anything more than that, though, might be overkill. Double-check each school’s requirements to make sure that you have the necessary tests (for example, certain technical schools require that you take Math II).

Finally, APs are undoubtedly on many juniors’ minds. Try not to procrastinate on studying for these exams. There are many resources available to you to help you get that coveted “5.” If you budget your time wisely and prep adequately (and strategically), you will not be that stressed come May.

As you can see, junior year is an important time. The time-sensitive nature of the things that need to be done can be quite stressful for an unprepared student. However, for the prepared student, the end of junior year can be the time that greatly increases his or her admissions chances.

Check back next week for Part II of the junior year series. We’ll be covering Extracurricular Activities and Summer Activities.


Want to know how your SAT score/ACT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!

Zack Perkins
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Zack was an economics major at Harvard before going on indefinite leave to pursue CollegeVine full-time as a founder. In his spare time, he enjoys closely following politics and binge-watching horror movies. To see Zack's full bio, visit the Team page.