If you’re heading into your junior year of high school, it’s essential to make thoughtful decisions about your classes and extracurricular activities for the year ahead. To guide you in this process, we sought advice from Katie Szalda, Siena’s Director of Admissions. Here are some valuable tips to keep in mind:
Prioritize Core Classes
A key piece of advice from Katie is to stick with your core classes, which include math, English, science, and history. Despite the temptation to opt out of subjects that might not be your strongest or favorite, it is vital for your college applications and overall knowledge to include them in your 11th-grade schedule and follow through with them to completion.
Maintain Your Foreign Language Studies
While some high schools only require a couple of years of a foreign language, Katie encourages students to continue their language studies. “We really like to see at least three years of a foreign language on high school transcripts,” she says. Continuing with a foreign language demonstrates commitment to an important area of study and establishes a solid foundation for your college years, regardless of whether you plan to major or minor in a language.
If you haven’t already enrolled in Honors or AP classes, but feel ready for a more rigorous curriculum, this is the time to take on that challenge. Show admissions counselors that you are eager to push yourself academically. However, Katie advises finding a balance and challenging yourself “within your means.” It is better to excel in regular college-level preparatory classes than struggle to earn Cs or Ds in AP classes. Regardless of the class level, remember to actively engage, participate, and ask questions.
Does your school offer enticing electives such as architecture, photography, graphic design, or data science? If you have room in your schedule, don’t hesitate to pursue these interests. This is an excellent opportunity to explore existing passions or discover new ones. It could also provide compelling material for college admissions essays or interview discussions.
Make Use of Study Hall
If your school offers the option of an extra prep period or study hall, don’t feel guilty about taking advantage of it. “You need this time to de-stress, free yourself from distractions, and study,” advises Katie. These free periods between your core subjects, foreign language class, and electives provide a much-needed break for focused concentration.
Consider Repeating Teachers
When planning your schedule, inquire whether any of your favorite teachers from freshman or sophomore year teach junior-level classes. If you have the opportunity to learn from them again, it is likely that you will feel more engaged in their class. Furthermore, junior year is an ideal time to think about which teachers you might ask for letters of recommendation. If you had a positive experience with a teacher and have them again in junior year, their recommendation letter could hold more weight.
Don’t Forget About Extracurriculars
In addition to selecting your classes, it is important to plan your extracurricular activities as well. Quality, not quantity, is what matters in college admissions. Instead of joining numerous clubs and sports teams, consider becoming more deeply involved in one or two organizations. Can you take on a leadership role or become a student advisor? Use your experiences to pursue part-time internships or volunteer opportunities outside of school. Show your commitment and dedication.
Lastly, as Katie suggests, start planning campus visits. The earlier you begin exploring potential colleges, the more time you’ll have to carefully consider your options.
Looking for more college advice? Check out our recommended college resources to assist you in your search and application process.