Starting 11th Grade: 8 Things You Need to Do to Own Your Junior Year
Starting 11th grade is sometimes a stressful time for students. Whereas 9th and 10th grade were times of transition and hitting your stride, 11th grade is often when high school really kicks into high gear. There’s not much time left for experimenting with different activities or finding the right course load. Instead, you’re expected to hit the ground running.
In addition, your junior year may be the beginning of the college search process. You’ll need to start curating a college list, preparing for standardized tests, and deciding how to present yourself as a college applicant. It can all seem a little overwhelming at first glance. Luckily, if you break it down into smaller pieces and get a better idea of what to expect, you’ll have no trouble. Wondering where to get started? Here, we discuss eight things you’ll need to do as you start 11th grade.
Register for the PSAT
The PSAT is offered in October of each year, and you will need to register through your school. While it used to be referred to as the Preliminary SAT, it is now simply the PSAT and often serves as your first exposure to formal standardized tests. In addition, the PSAT is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship.
Some students get really stressed out about taking the PSAT. They commit to a rigorous prep schedule and worry about their scores. At CollegeVine, we recommend a more relaxed approach. While qualifying for a National Merit Scholarship is certainly a nice perk and a good boost on your college applications, the PSAT is most valuable as your first indication of how well you do in the standardized testing environment. Don’t worry too much about preparing in advance; instead focus on improving between your PSAT and your SATs.
To learn more about the PSAT and National Merit Scholarships, check out these posts:
Work on Your College List
During junior year, you’ll need to really narrow your college list down to the schools that you’re ultimately going to apply to. First though, you need to amass a more comprehensive list to whittle down from. The summer leading up to junior year and the first semester of junior year are well spent learning as much as you can about as many colleges as possible.
You can accomplish this by networking with friends, family, and mentors, by researching schools online, and by using online college search engines like the CollegeBoard’s BigFuture. Here, you’ll find search features that allow you to filter by SAT score, GPA, geographic location, and school size among many other choices. This is a great place to get started if you just want to figure out what options are out there.
To learn more about working on your college list, don’t miss these posts:
Kick Up Your Academics
When 11th grade starts, you need to be ready to tackle some serious academics. If you want to attend a selective college, you’ll need to take the most challenging classes available, and do well at them. If you did well academically during ninth and tenth grade, you’ll need to continue your high level of achievement. If you stumbled during earlier grades, you’ll need to establish a clear upward grade trend by 11th grade.
To learn more about academics during your junior year of high school, please see these posts:
Fine Tune Your Extracurriculars
While academics are ramping up, extracurriculars are focusing in. In order to build a strong application, you will need to build a profile that shows your dedication, responsibility, and time management skills.
In the ideal world, you’ve tested the waters of extracurriculars earlier in your high school career and are now choosing which matter most to you. Focus on committing time and resources to two or three key extracurricular activities. Choose things that are important to you, that you genuinely enjoy pursuing, and that allow you to give back to important causes in your community.
To learn more about extracurriculars, see our post A Guide to Extracurricular Activities: Grade 11
Visit Some Nearby Colleges
One great way to kickstart your college search is to visit a school or two that are nearby. You might not be interested in attending that particular local college or you may even have your sights set on an entirely different geographical location, but visiting a few schools early in your college search will help to clarify your perspective.
You’ll learn more about campus culture, college resources, and your personal priorities by visiting a local college. Gaining more perspective into the campus factors that matter most to you will add clarity to your college search when you get more serious about finding the colleges you want to attend.
Attend College Fairs
Another great way to learn more about various colleges is to attend college fairs. These are generally held at local high schools or community centers and colleges from across the country often send admissions representatives.
Before attending a college fair, you’ll want to learn which schools will be attending, and you should do some basic research into them so that you know which interest you the most. Compile a list of meaningful questions for admissions representatives, collect cards from the representatives you speak with, and follow up with an email to thank them personally.
To learn more about how to capitalize on college fairs, see our post How to Make the Most of a College Fair.
Make an SAT or ACT Schedule
During 11th grade, you’ll be getting serious about standardized tests. While your first experience will likely be in the fall with the PSAT, you will want to plan your SAT or ACT schedule in advance so that you can spread out your test prep.
Most students take the SAT or ACT for the first time during spring of 11th grade. This means that you’ll want to start studying during the first semester, getting more serious about your prep as the test date nears.
To get a better idea about test schedules and studying, check out our SAT and ACT guides:
Plan Your Summer In Advance
The first semester of your junior year of high school probably seems like a funny time to think about summer activities, but it’s a smart idea to get a head start. Many students are surprised to learn that top summer programs often have application deadlines in January or February. This means doing your research earlier in the year so that you aren’t caught unawares when application deadlines near.
To learn more about top summer programs, consider these CollegeVine posts:
Your 11th grade year is generally regarded as the most important year when it comes to college applications. Now is the time to plan ahead, get serious about academics, and focus in on extracurriculars. For more help along the way, consider the assistance of the CollegeVine College Application Guidance Program, which helps students navigate the complex college application process from creating a school list to producing stand-out college application essays.
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