Preparing for College: Junior Year (11th Grade)

Take the PSAT
If you were unable to take the PSAT during your sophomore year, Fall of your junior year is the time to take it. Read more >

Narrow Down Your List of Colleges
By now you should have a list of at least three schools you would like to apply to: one reach school, one match school, and one safety school. A “reach school” is one that you have a shot at getting in but is not a sure thing based on your test scores, gpa, or class rank in comparison with the universities profile of admitted students. “Match schools” are those that you seem to be a good fit for or your test scores, gpa, and class rank put you in line with the average admitted student. Finally, the “safety school” should be one that you feel almost certain that you will be admitted to because your test scores, gpa, and class rank place you well above those of the average admitted student. During your junior year or the summer following your junior year are good times to start scheduling campus visits. If you haven’t narrowed your list of colleges down, college tours are a good way to start eliminating choices.

Look into Taking Advanced Placement Courses
Most high schools have the option to begin taking Advanced Placement courses in your junior year. Advanced Placement provides high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses and achieve college credit or advanced placement. If you feel that you can handle such courses, talk to your guidance counselor to learn more about them. Advanced Placement courses look good on your transcripts and can save you time and money when you begin college.

Standardized Test
Most colleges and universities will accept the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or ACT. Be sure to check with the institutions to which you are interested in applying to confirm which exam they prefer. While it is usually recommended that you choose a test date that is at least two months ahead of the application deadlines, HBCUSearch recommends that you take the standardized test Fall of your junior year, Spring of Junior year at the latest. Taking the exam your junior year will allow you to better plan for senior year and give you an extra opportunity to take the exam again if necessary.

The ACT is a national college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a short break. Some institutions require that you take the ACT Plus, which includes the same four subject areas plus a 30-minute writing test. Be sure to check before registering for the exam.

The fee to register for the ACT is currently $36.50, while the ACT Plus Writing registration fee is $52.50. Both fees include reports to you, your high school, and up to four colleges. If you cannot afford the registration fees you may be eligible for an ACT fee waiver. Your school’s guidance department should have information on eligibility and how to obtain this waiver. The ACT is administered six times a year in the U.S. during September, October, December, February, April, and June. Visit the ACT website for more details regarding test dates and centers.

You may also opt to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The SAT exam starts with a required essay followed by three content areas (Critical Reading, Math and Writing) broken up into 10 sections. It takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the SAT. There are also SAT Subject Tests that can complement or enhance your college admission credentials.

The SAT is offered seven times each year in the U.S. and six times internationally. It is offered in October, November, December, January, March (U.S. only; SAT only), May and June. The cost to take the basic SAT exam is $51 in the US. SAT registration fee waivers are also available through your schools counseling department. Visit the College Board website for more details regarding the SAT including exact test dates.