1. Do well in school. Yes, I know it seems obvious, but the most important factor for admissions to colleges are your grades and the classes you took to get those grades. Junior year is your last full year of grades to report so you want them to look good.
2. Prepare for the SAT or ACT. I normally recommend that students take two actual tests between January and June of junior year. You first need to figure out which test to take. Not sure about how to decide? Here is a quick guide to testing to help you get started. Once you know which test to take, then you need to get prepared to actually take the test.
3. Prepare for SAT subject tests. This one depends on the colleges you are applying to. There are only about 100 colleges in the US that want SAT subject tests. But, they tend to be the more competitive colleges so if you are looking at the highly competitive colleges, you should plan on taking several SAT subject tests.
4. Develop your passion. I’ve talked before about the need to have a passion, particularly for admissions to the most selective colleges. Junior year is the time to really take that passion to the next step. Think about the things that you can do to really show colleges that this is your passion. It might be a simple as volunteering in an area related to your passion. What you do isn’t as important as just doing something.
5. Volunteer. Colleges like to see students who care about someone other than themselves. How do you show that? By volunteering. Effective volunteering doesn’t require 20 hours a week. But it does require regular consistent volunteering. Even an hour or two a week is fine as long as you do it pretty much every week, both during the summer and during the school year. Want bonus points for volunteering? Volunteer in an area relate to your passion. See No. 4 above.
6. Visit Some Colleges. Note that I said visit, not pick some colleges. Right now your focus should be on trying to figure out what you want from a college. Once you know what you want from a college, then you can worry about finding colleges that meet your needs.
There you go juniors. While your senior friends are going crazy with the whole college application process, you can be getting ready to make yourself the most competitive candidate for next year’s application season.