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JUNIORS – NOW IS YOUR TIMEHow important is the junior year? In a word - VERY. Not to be dramatic, but if you are thinking of going to college this is a very important year for you. Almost every aspect of the college process is touched upon with the exception of writing essays and completing the application. This is the year to begin thinking about what you want in your college experience. Grades take on increased importance. Deadlines have to be met and the whole business of the college search seems to take on a life of its own.

Here are a few tips to make your junior year more successful and your senior year less stressful:
** There is no way of avoiding the simple fact that junior year grades will be a very important factor when your application is being considered. Do the very best you can.

** Review course selection for next year and make sure they are as challenging as they can be for you. Colleges look closely for signs of senioritis - a most debilitating disease.

** Meet with your high school counselor. Make sure that your transcript is correct. Get your counselor's ideas of schools that might be a good match.

** Standardized testing becomes an important part of your life right up there with prom plans. Hopefully you have taken the PSAT in the fall. Use the results to help you prepare for the SAT. Develop an overall test-taking plan.

** Continue researching colleges by looking at websites, reading guidebooks and view books. If you don't have specific colleges in mind, choose a few by category: area of the country, large or small, urban or rural, state or private, etc.

**Visit colleges over spring break or definitely plan some trips for this summer.

**Think about whom you are going to ask to write recommendations. You want to ask people who know and like you and who will write compellingly about you. Junior year teachers, as opposed to senior ones, will have known you the longest.

**If you haven't been doing this, then now is the time for parents and students to talk about college. Differences of opinion are easier to work out now rather than this time next year. It is a good idea to discuss respective roles in the college process - who does what. And, of course, the finances need to be addressed.

**Make sure your résumé is updated by recording all accomplishments, activities and work experiences over the past three years. You will be glad at application time that you did this.

**If you are considering a military academy or want to apply for an ROTC scholarship, this process needs to start junior year.

**If you haven't started a file box or drawer to manage your college search, testing, and application information --- do it now ---you will be glad you did when you go to look for something.

**Use the summer wisely: travel, work, volunteer, read, practice essay writing, study to further your education and experiences.

Some things to keep in mind:
#1 It is a good idea to take the SAT in your junior year. That gives you the opportunity to retake it your senior year if you want to improve your score.
#2 Taking test preparation classes can be helpful, but the best preparation is practice, practice, and more practice.
#3 If you think you might apply to a college that requires SAT Subject Tests, take them at the end of your junior year.
#4 Consider taking the ACT this year. Some students do better on this test because it is more related to courses you have taken.
#5 Take AP tests and IB tests. These provide excellent experience in test taking and help you study for the SAT Subject tests. Plus they can help you with advanced standing in college.
Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants