Junior Year Timeline

Planning on going to college? From taking the ACT to touring college campuses, there’s a lot you can be doing junior year to help you hit the ground running as a senior. Here’s what should be on your radar.


  • Figure out what you’re looking for in a college. Big school or small school? Public or private university? Are you looking for a school with a strong athletics program? Maybe one where you can study astrobiology? Identify your interests!
  • Start the search. Browse college websites, ask your teachers about the schools they went to, or use a college search engine like Cappex or BigFuture College Search.
  • Prepare for the ACT. You’ll likely take this test for the first time in late winter or early spring. A great place to start for ACT prep is act.org where you can find a free practice test and study tips (scroll all the way to the bottom of the test prep page for the free resources).  
  • Know what’s available. Visit your high school guidance counselor and ask them if there are any upcoming college nights or college rep visits. It’s also a good idea to check in with them from time-to-time to make sure you’re on track with college planning.  
  • Get organized. Find an accordion folder to help you keep all your college information, testing documents, and financial aid information together. Or, if you’re more of a digital person, you can store this on your computer. Whatever you do, hang on to everything (confirmations, applications, usernames, passwords) and try to keep it in one place.


  • Sign up for the ACT test. Deadline for registration is around a month before the test date. Tests are offered in February, April, June, and July. You can also take the test in September or October of your senior year—just keep in mind that it’s best to take the test at least twice (colleges only look at your best score) and it can take up to two months to get your scores back (many colleges have deadlines in late fall or early winter).
  • Estimate financial need. Many colleges have a net price calculator that can give you an estimate of how much financial aid you’ll qualify for, including federal, state, and institutional aid. Sit down with your parents (you’re going to need some of their financial information), and check out Bethel’s net price calculator as an example.
  • Research financial aid options. In addition to financial aid from the government and from the college, most students need additional dollars to cover their tuition. Start familiarizing yourself with different scholarship opportunities so you’re ready to apply when applications open next year. Two great places to start are your high school (students are more likely to get local scholarships) and any of the colleges you’re considering (check their websites—some colleges have additional scholarships you can apply for).
  • Plan your senior year schedule. You may not be able to make your schedule now, but start thinking about what courses you could take that would help to prepare you for college. If you’re thinking about PSEO, IB, or AP classes, now’s the time to make sure you have everything in order.


  • Make your list of colleges. You don’t have to apply to all of them, but write down 10-15 schools that have some of the things you’re looking for.
  • Learn what you need for the FAFSA. Sometimes it takes a while to find all the tax forms, bank statements, etc. Not sure what documents you need to collect? Check out this blog post.
  • Go on college visits. You can do this in the summer too, but you’ll get a better sense of college life when classes are in session.
  • Apply for a summer job or internship. Work experience looks good on college and scholarship applications. You can also put some of that money away to help you pay for college in the future!


  • Explore college application requirements. Knowing what you need to have before you actually sit down to do your applications next fall can make the process a lot less stressful.
  • Start your college essays. Some colleges require you to submit a personal essay. You can browse some of last year’s Common Application essay prompts. And if you’re looking for some tips to write your best essay, check out this blog post.
  • Create a resume. For now, this should include your contact information, any jobs you’ve had, where you went to school, extracurricular activities, and volunteer experience. As you get older, your resume will be more career-focused than school-focused. You may not need a resume right away, but you might be asked for one in the future so it doesn’t hurt to start now!
  • Take a deep breath. Senior year comes with an even bigger to-do list—but we’ve got you covered there too, when the time comes.

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