The Summer Before Junior Year of High School (10 Tips for Moms)


junior yearYour student’s junior year will begin in the fall. It’s time for you and your teen to sit down and evaluate goals to make sure you are on-track for the college application process. As you go back through all the grades, papers, awards and accomplishments you will be able to see your teen’s progress and that progress will encourage them to keep focused and keep their eye on the prize: graduation and college acceptance.

1. The Junior Year GPA

If your teen has been working hard, their GPA should show it. College admissions counselors will be looking hard at their GPA from their junior year. It’s an important year to show them that the grades are at the least consistent, and at the best rising from the previous year. Falling grades are an indicator of lack of focus and could hurt them down the road when their application is reviewed. This is a good time to schedule a meeting with your high school guidance counselor and discuss your teen’s progress, and verify that their courses are on-track for graduation and for the colleges under consideration.

2. Take the PSAT

This is the all-important PSAT year. Even if your teen took it last year as practice (and hopefully they did) they need to register again, because this is when it counts. This is the year that their scores will qualify them for the National Merit Scholarship program and scholarships. Follow the calendar deadlines and register EARLY. If they took the test last year review the answers that they missed and make sure they know why they missed it and take some time to study the correct answers.

3. Take SAT and ACT practice tests

Register for the SAT or ACT and spend this year doing some practice tests online and studying vocabulary. Cramming rarely helps, but studying over a period of time and preparation will help them approach the test with confidence and the knowledge they need to test well.

4. Preparing for the Essay

Research some college applications and look at the essay topics. Encourage your teen to start thinking about the essay and drafting some preliminary essays. The college essay can often push the admissions officer over the acceptance edge if it’s done well and is unique. Look through the past essays they have written in high school and see if any could be adapted for the college essay. The worst thing your teen can do is submit a misspelled, grammatically incorrect essay as part of their college application. Early preparation will assure time for proofing and re-writes.

5. Time for some college fairs and college visits

Junior year is a perfect time to begin attending those college fairs and visiting college campuses. Many schools allow for excused college visit days. Check with your high school registrar for specifics, because you might have to complete forms to get the absences excused. Collect business cards and contact information and keep track of them using a database program. These contacts will help later if you have a question regarding a specific school or need a personal contact during the admissions process.

6. Intensify the Scholarship Search

Junior year is the time to “hunker down” and get serious about those scholarship applications. As you get closer to senior year, you’ll find that many are age and grade specific. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll have a concise catalog of those scholarships ready for your application. If not, don’t panic. There’s still plenty of time to do some research and jump on the scholarship bandwagon. Remember that every scholarship you receive, no matter how small, is FREE money that you don’t have to pay back. Don’t forget to investigate private scholarships and school-specific scholarships to assure you apply by the specific deadlines.

7. Preparing for the FAFSA

The junior calendar year will be the year that the FAFSA will utilize your income tax records to determine your family’s Expected Family Contribution. If there is anything your tax advisor or accountant has told you to do regarding the way colleges view your financial status, this is the year to follow those recommendations. If you own a business, you will want to make sure all your records are in order if any of the colleges require completion of the CSS Profile.

8. Review your high school progress

Look at the past two years to see if there are any gaps in your teen’s resume. Have your teen answer these questions:

  • Do you need to do some volunteer work?
  • Are you involved in some type of leadership capacity in at least one activity?
  • Do your courses and grades show their college level success?
  • Have you established a relationship with a member of the faculty and with your high school guidance counselor?
  • Are your extracurricular activities “all over the place” or are they focused?

It’s not too late to remedy any of these situations. Your teen still has time during their junior year to get involved, volunteer, get to know their teachers/counselor, and exhibit leadership.

9. Begin refining the college list

It’s time to get serious about the college list. This list will dictate your college visits during junior year and be the guidebook for all your research and financial questions. Do the research, gather all the data, and narrow the list down as your student approaches the end of their junior year.

10. Don’t overparent

If you feel yourself pushing or nagging, take a step back. Don’t fall into the “competition” trap that will begin when school starts. Parents will begin to brag and you might find yourself falling into that admissions game. Don’t do it. Your student needs to find the place that’s right for him, not the place that gives you the greatest bragging rights. Help him find that college and support his decision.

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