Your Junior Year College Prep: a Guide Along the Path

There is a shift that happens when students enter junior year.

It's palpable. Students are no longer underclassmen: they're older, they're taking on leadership positions and other responsibilities in their activities, and they're busier than ever in classes. If you're a junior, you can feel that this year matters in a way that the first two years did not. Meanwhile, everyone you know seems to be talking about applying to colleges.

For parents, the reality is setting in: graduation is less than two years out. Your kid is growing up (ready or not!) and there is an exciting new chapter around the corner. The transition will be challenging and bittersweet. College applications are due this time next year.

Are we taking the right steps? Will we be ready?

Junior year is when you get the planning process off the ground. Summer between junior and senior year is when you set your application work in motion: finalizing your college list, visiting, connecting with college reps, writing your personal statement. By fall of senior year, you'll want to have all your remaining application tasks lined up so that you can knock 'em down — while simultaneously having your best semester ever of high school.

But what should we do right now in first semester of junior year?

Whether you're a parent or student, there is one clear first step: learn what's ahead. In other words, don't get caught off guard! Things aren't quite what they used to be.

What will today's juniors be faced with when applying to college?

A few facts:

  • Colleges are receiving a greater volume of applications than ever — in part because individual students are applying to more colleges on average.
  • Average tuition at four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 1990. However, average financial aid packages have also grown.
  • While acceptance rates at the top-ranked U.S. universities continue to drop, the national average acceptance rate is still about two thirds of all applicants.
  • Lastly, the total number of first-time freshmen enrolling in fall is on the decline. In other words, the pool is getting less crowded, although there are still millions more in that pool than when most parents were headed to college.
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The long and short? Families need to know their options and students need to be more intentional than ever about where and why they're applying — and what they stand to gain personally from the experience.

What will juniors be faced with on a personal level when applying to college?

Today's students are especially prone to anxiety and operate under pressure in ways that actually make stress worse. How does your teen handle a heavy workload, competition, or having high expectations placed on them?

Does your student tend to isolate rather than employing their resources to help them? Or, do they pawn off their responsibilities onto you or other people in order to avoid stress? These habits form over time — and your student may not be fully aware of them.

The college application process can be quickly polluted by stress. Your student will be expected to know themselves, understand the process, and be familiar with the schools that they are applying to. There are many tasks to be checked off of the list before a college application is complete!

Your teenager is preparing for adult life. This is the time to build the skills to function effectively under stress. If they focus all of their energy on getting to the finish line without being intentional with how they get there, they will struggle to succeed not only now, but in the years to come. They be worn down by confusion and stress, possibly fail to achieve their goal, and worst of all, be unable to make the most of their education once they arrive at their college.

Today's juniors can take a few simple steps now in order to have a positive experience as they look toward their future in school and in life.


Here is where to start:

  • Thorough Self-Assessment
  • Clear Action Steps
  • Knowledge and Resources
  • Meaningful Goals


In order to stay competitive, your must be able to think for themselves and let their skills and interests guide them. They will be encouraged to focus on the things that they think others want to see them doing or saying. This method of preparing for college is limiting at best!

Students who take time to assess where they are starting from will have fewer setbacks and a lower stress-level, which increases their chances for a college and life experience that is successful and fulfilling.

Start the first semester of junior year with self-assessment. Every task and decision related to college applications will be made simpler by starting here.

Teen LAUNCH has created a guide to help you. Complete the first step online here: The Path to College Insight-to-Action Guide for Juniors. We'll be adding the next few parts in the coming weeks. Our guides are completely free and help you focus on exactly what you need to do at this point in high school to make a smooth and successful transition during application season and after graduation.

Join us for our next live event to talk with us about how you can take what you learn from this assessment and translate it to journey ahead.