College Search: Junior Timeline


Courtesy of Princeton Review

Kaitlyn Tobin, Contributor

As many juniors watch the chaos of upperclassmen applying and hearing back for college, many find themselves stressed and confused. Luckily, juniors have a considerably longer amount of time than seniors to prepare for college. Below is a loose guideline to facilitate early participation in the process, which may prevent some of the last minute, crippling stress that can plague students as seniors.


  • Discover where your passions and skills lie. Fall of your junior year is a perfect time to list your strengths and weaknesses, and any tasks you are willing or not willing to perform in your future career. There are several surveys offered on Naviance to help explore your strengths, but you may want to consider talking to current workers in your preferred field or even experiencing some aspects firsthand to get a better idea.
  • Start your college search by browsing through colleges and talking to friends and family about their experiences in college. Many students develop the first draft of their college list and begin to plan time where they may possibly get to explore these colleges, especially if they are far away. Gain experience and knowledge by varying your search and discovering what characteristics in a college that you need, and what you might want.
  • Prepare for the SAT by taking the PSAT in October. This will give you good practice for the real SAT, and your score will give you a good idea of which areas you may want to focus on improving.
  • Start putting together important grade scores and additional materials. Consider future classes you may want to take. If you are planning on possibly applying to a specific art focused program, you may want to consider beginning to collect an art portfolio or CD of some music you have played.


  • Don’t forget to sign up for the SAT in the spring. 
  • Begin to think about your financial needs and the different sources that might provide you with financial aid. This is important to think about earlier rather than later, because college is often very expensive.
  • Sign up for any junior year AP exams you are planning to take and make sure to study hard! Some colleges will count AP classes as college credit if the score is satisfactory.
  • Lastly, scheduling an appointment with your guidance counselor is a great idea. You can talk about your search and ask for any advice. Keep your guidance counselor up to date; he/she will be happy to help you.


  • Create a list of ten to fifteen colleges that may interest you. Make sure it is varied and offers different options. Most students alter this list as they further their search, but the number of colleges students strongly consider varies.
  • Take the SAT. These scores are important, so prepare properly and take the test seriously.
  • Contact your counselor before summer vacation. Let your guidance counselor know about your plans, so that he/she can help in any way.


  • Participate in “resume boosters”: character building activities that benefit you, while looking great to colleges. Whether it is finding a full-time or part-time job, participating in a summer camp or college program, or something completely different, colleges want to know your interests, and what you may contribute to them. Many colleges offer opportunities to take early classes or programs to discover the college and your interests.
  • Over the summer is great time to visit colleges and explore your college interests. Tour a campus and if desired, set up an interview.
  • Begin downloading and looking at applications, so that you can start putting together the elements of a strong application. The Common Application is released in August, and it can be helpful to get a head start on completing it. If you know for sure you are applying to certain colleges, you can add them in your Common App account and work on their portion of the application, if offered. Supplements are a great way for colleges to learn more about you and your writing style.
  • At the very least, draft your college essay! The prompts are released in the summer, and the more time you spend perfecting and thinking about your essay, the better it will turn out. Have parents, peers and teachers read over it, so that you are not rushing at the beginning of senior year. Many colleges have October or November deadlines, which creep up faster than expected.

Instead of procrastinating or ignoring the important process of college searching and applications, try to follow this timeline and stay focused. Good luck!