Jill Haley: Let’s talk about junior year | TheUnion.com

Jill Haley: Let’s talk about junior year

Jill Haley

Photo for The Union John Hart

The junior year of high school is considered the most important year of high school when it comes to college admissions. For many colleges, it is the last full year of courses and grades they will see before deciding who to admit.

While high school grades are only one piece of the college admissions decision, they still are the most important piece. Junior year tends to be the most academically rigorous for students. This is when they take advanced math, lab science such as chemistry or physics and the second or third year of a world language. Colleges like to see a student who takes on a challenge and advanced classes reflect this.

But how many of these should be Advanced Placement or honors classes? Advanced Placement classes are college-level classes offered on the high school campus starting in the sophomore year. Advanced courses require additional homework and extensive reading.

How many advanced courses to schedule in a semester should depend on what other interests and activities you are involved in. If you excel in science, but struggle in English, taking advanced courses in science and regular English classes may make sense. A "C" in an AP English class will not impress the college admissions staff.

To maximize your chance of acceptance to colleges, a good question to ask yourself is "what is the most rigorous schedule that I can be successful at?"

Junior year is also the time when students begin studying and taking colleges admissions tests. Whether they decide on the ACT or the SAT, carving out some time to study for these tests has benefits. Khan academy offers free test prep and their research shows that putting in 20 hours of study time results in a 115-point increase on the SAT.

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The all-important college list, the list of where to apply to college, should be narrowed down by the end of the junior year. Why? Because you start applying to college in early fall of your senior year.

Scheduling college visits can help identify colleges that are a good fit. There is nothing like walking on a campus and experiencing for yourself how that college feels. The guidebooks and webpages do not give you the same experience as actually being there.

If you are a student athlete and want to be recruited to play athletics in college, you need to register at the NCAA Clearinghouse early in your junior year.

With so much happening in the junior year, students often feel overwhelmed and burned out. Encourage students to get organized and practice good time-management. Waiting until the last minute can be a disaster when it comes to applying to college.

Parents can provide emotional support but should refrain from talking about college too much. If your child sees that you are stressed out about college choices and applications this only adds to his or her stress. If you are concerned about depression in your teen contact your physician, high school counselor or therapist.

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.

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