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Junior Year Checklist: How to Prepare for Senior Year and College Applications

Two graduates in black gowns and caps holding diplomas and celebrating

Junior year is coming to an end, and that means senior year is just around the corner and so are . . . college applications! Below are six basic steps rising seniors can take to prepare for their upcoming college applications. However, since this is a highly personalized process, we recommend developing an individualized admissions strategy—something our expert college admissions counselors are trained to do!!

1.  Finish junior year strong!

GPA and rank are two of the most important factors in college admissions. Regional Admissions Officers will be comparing your academic profile to other students in your high school and area when reviewing applications. They will be considering whether you challenged yourself with AP/IB/Advanced courses and how well you performed in class and on standardized exams. The final semester of junior year is especially important as it is the most accurate and recent reflection of your academic performance that colleges will see.

2. Set yourself up for a successful senior year! 

If you have not done so already, now is the time to meet with your guidance counselor to finalize your schedule for your senior year. Avoid taking off-blocks and continue pursuing advanced and major-related coursework. You want to make sure you select a schedule that is challenging but manageable. It is very important to perform well in your senior year as colleges may make requests for updated, mid-year transcripts—especially for students who are waitlisted or deferred from their top schools. 

3. Study, study, study for upcoming standardized tests!

If you are in your junior year, you should have ideally taken at least one standardized exam before. Securing a competitive SAT/ACT score is something every student can work towards now to improve their chances of admission at all colleges (with the exception of test-blind schools like the University of California). Depending on the schools you are applying to, you may want to retest to have a more competitive score. 

  • Remaining SAT dates before the end of junior year:

  • May 4th

  • June 1st

  • Remaining ACT dates before the end of junior year:

  • June 8th

  • July 13th

In addition to the SAT/ACT, juniors taking AP and/or IB courses should be studying for their upcoming May exams. Since SAT Subject Tests are no longer offered worldwide, AP/IB exams are the only standardized exams showing subject competency and mastery. Aim for higher scores—4+ for AP and 5+ for IB—for more competitive schools. 

4. Add to your resume!

Your activities are one of the main ways you can differentiate yourself from other qualified candidates with similar academic profiles. Colleges will be putting more emphasis on where you’ve spent your time and effort in 10th and 11th grade. Colleges want to admit students who have been actively exploring their majors and investing in their communities.

It’s not too late to set up something for summer and senior year. In addition to budgeting time for college applications, you should also plan to use your summer productively. Pick up some volunteer hours or find an opportunity related to your future major or career. 

5. Think about recommendations!

If you haven’t started building strong relationships with your teachers and counselors, now is the time! You want to ask at least two teachers (one STEM and one Humanities teacher) to provide a recommendation along with your school counselor, who will fill out a Counselor Report. 

It is a good idea to ask your teachers before summer break (April/May) in case you are planning on applying to any schools with rolling deadlines. Note that some schools (like UT Austin) are now preferring recommendations from a mentor who can speak to your character, leadership, and achievement outside of school.

6. Start researching schools you are interested in! 

A great way to get a head start on college applications is to know where you will be applying! College applications can be tedious—every summer we hear from students who are shocked at how long the process takes. You will save yourself time by narrowing down the number of schools you want to apply to and set yourself apart from other students if you’ve researched specific resources and opportunities available at each of your schools. 

You don’t need to apply to schools alone—B2A is here to help! 

Do you need additional support this summer navigating the college admissions process? Consider signing up for our Summer Gateway Program, which is designed to guide students through college admissions with a designated Gateway counselor. You'll plan and work on your applications and essays with someone who manages your entire college admissions strategy. Not only that, you'll get additional guidance from essay specialists and other counselors in classroom-setting workshops.

Additionally, if you need help finishing the rest of junior year strong, we offer test preparation services for SAT/ACT, tutoring for AP/IB courses, and 1:1 consultations to find blind spots in your application and how to strengthen them!


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