Junior Year College Planning

Here is a sample timeline for a normal year. 2020 is not normal, so, for example, the PSAT was not offered in October and was cancelled again in January 2021.  SAT and ACT test dates were completely disrupted in 2020 and are proving problematic in early 2021, causing many colleges to adopt test optional policies - some temporarily, and some colleges have permanently changed their requirements. To see a list of schools with test optional policies check - https://www.fairtest.org/. 

Summer before Junior Year -

  • Be active; get a job, internship, do some volunteer work, or pursue a passion.

  • Talk with family about your college goals and college costs.

  • Visit some college campuses, either locally or on vacations.

  • Read a lot over the summer to keep your mind challenged and in learning mode.

  • Consider summer school.  It could prepare you to have the opportunity to take honors or AP courses or an elective next year.

  • Keep training and stay fit if you plan to play a sport in college.



  • This is a big year for grades, stay focused and work hard.

  • Consider your SAT/ACT testing schedule for the year - plan and prep accordingly. Registration for the tests usually happens two months prior to the scheduled test. UC and CSU schools as well as many others instituted "test optional" policies for seniors applying for fall of 2021, and some of those policies will still be in place for students applying to start college in fall 2022, so check your colleges' websites to see if tests are warranted. If you do need to take them, there are free test prep resources online. 

  • Stay involved in extracurricular activities and take on leadership roles.

  • Think about longer term interests and goals. What might you be interested in studying in college? What are your career goals? It is good to have a focus, but know that you can always change your mind



  • If offered, take the PSAT/NMSQT (again if you took it in 10th grade).  It is good practice for the SAT.

  • If you are taking AP courses, follow information from Counselors regarding spring AP testing, and register for tests.

  • Make a list of colleges you are interested in.  Talk with your parents about what you can afford.  Before you get your heart set on a college and expend a lot of time researching it, make sure it is a financially realistic choice for you and your family. 

  • Attend a college fair or (in the COVID year, a virtual college fair).  Talk with as many colleges that interest you as possible and be open to hearing about others. You might discover something you had not thought of.

  • Research scholarships and financial aid and find out about deadlines and eligibility requirements.



  • Are you interested in playing a sport in college?  Have your coach give you an evaluation and talk about what goals might be realistic for you.  Research the sport at the colleges you are interested in.  What division do they play?  What are the profiles of current players?  Contact the coaches and let them know that you are interested and when they can see you play.

  • Majoring in the arts?  Check with your teachers about requirements for a portfolio or audition.



  • Go over your PSAT/NMSQT Score Report (again, remembering that this is a timeline for a non-pandemic year).

  • Begin researching your list of colleges.  What features are important to you?  Weight them on a scale of 1-5 of level of importance and compare the scores.

  • Make a study plan for preparing for the SAT/ACT.  There are online study programs, prep courses, and books available.

  • If you don’t have a social security number, this is a good time to apply for one. You will need one for most college applications.


  • Always read your emails from the Counseling Department and listen closely to their classroom presentations regarding Naviance and the college search process.

  • If English is not your primary language, decide when to take the TOEFL test.

  • Start to research college majors that might interest you.  You can always change your mind, but it is good to have direction as you research colleges.

  • Register to take the SAT if you are going to take the March test.

  • If you are considering military academies or ROTC scholarships, meet with your counselor to discuss requirements.



  • As articulation takes place, talk to your current teachers and think hard about what classes you want to take senior year. Colleges DO look at senior year schedules (you report courses "In Progress" on your applications) and rigor of coursework is extremely important to selective colleges. Discuss course selection with your parents and with your counselor.

  • Register to take the ACT if you are going to take the April test.

  • Look into summer programs at your colleges of interest.  Do they have a program in your major?  It is a great opportunity to have an on-campus experience, possibly meet some of the professors, and get a better feel for the school.


  • Register to take the SAT if you are going to take the May tests.

  • Identify the factors in a college that are most important to you; location, cost, programs, public, private, religious affiliation, social environment, etc.  Narrow your college list to a reasonable number.  Eliminate those schools that don’t carry your major.  Talk to people that are familiar with those schools. 

  • Check the websites of your colleges of interest and sign up to be on their email list to receive information. Then check your email.

  • If taking an SAT or ACT before year's end, prepare in advance through free online materials.

  • If you plan to play Division I or II sports, talk with your coach and counselor about NCAA requirements.  Make sure you stay in contact with the coaches at the colleges you are interested in.  Let them know when and where they can see you play.

  • Research summer plans - job, sports camp, enrichment program - many options fill up early, so don't start too much later than March to plan for your summer.


  • Make a list of teachers you will ask to write letters of recommendations for you if you plan on applying to colleges which require them. UC and CSU schools do NOT require teacher recommendations.

  • Register to take the SAT if you are going to take the June tests.

  • Research colleges on Naviance and create a list of colleges under "Colleges I'm Interested In" on Naviance. Sign up to meet with your LJHS counselor when prompted, and discuss your college interests and options.

  • Try to visit your top college choices.   Many colleges have open houses in the spring.  You will get a better feel for the school when it is in session.  Most high schools allow a certain number of excused absences for college visits.



  • Ask selected teachers if they will write you a letter of recommendation for college, if your colleges require them. Most colleges that require LORs ask for two from core academic teachers (English, science, math, social studies, foreign language).

  • Look into a summer job or volunteer opportunities for the summer.  Make good use of your time, it will reflect well on your college applications.

  • Begin researching college scholarships.



  • Ask your counselor about local scholarships offered by church groups, civic associations, and businesses in your community.

  • Have your college list narrowed down to the 10-12 colleges you like best. Arrange them into Reach, Likely and Safety categories (based on your SAT/ACT scores compared to successful applicants at the colleges.)

  • Complete "Student Input Survey" in Naviance and have parents complete "Parent Input Survey". These surveys form the basis for counselor letters of recommendation which are required for private and some out-of-state public schools. Answer the questions thoughtfully and thoroughly.