Junior Year Road Map

Below is a road map of the essential college-related activities for your junior year.

Research, research, research.

Steve Cohen at Forbes.com provides solid advice for researching schools during your junior year. I’ve included four of his tips and provided my own take on each one.

  • Cast a wide net

Don’t focus only on schools that are nearby, schools where everyone at your high school ends up, or the almae matres of your relatives. Learn about schools that are off the beaten path. You may find a school in another state that would be perfect for you and offers great financial aid. You’ll never know unless you “think outside the box.” To get the process started, you’ll want to …

  • Read stuff

You may be surprised by what you discover! PrincetonReview.com contains a wealth of information for students who are researching colleges. Its Counselor-O-Matic feature is a great way to get suggestions for schools that you might not have previously considered. You’ll be able to read what current students have to say about academics, life, and their fellow students at each school. Our unique ranking lists—e.g., best professors, happiest students, most politically active—are another good place to get school ideas. Additionally, you may want to check out our Best Value Colleges; odds are good that your parents will be impressed with this list.

  • Dig deeper

If you have a good feeling about a school, the next step is to dig deeper. After you check out PrincetonReview.com, Steve Cohen suggests (and I second) a visit to RateMyProfessors.com. Dive in and see what the students at a given school have to say about their professors. Do the professors seem like people whom you’d want to know? Do the students seem like people whom you’d want to know?

Steve also suggests using a school’s website to find the online version of its student newspaper and its course catalogue. The latter is particularly valuable. In addition to reading the course descriptions, be sure to check out prerequisities and the breadth of course offerings.

  • Keep a journal

Write down what you find and where you find it. There’s a lot of information out there, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. It’ll be easier to make decisions later if you have a written record of your findings.

Talk to your parents about the schools in which you are interested … and money.

As you do your research, check in with your parents. If you are thinking about attending an out-of-state school, be nice and let them know.

Additionally, The Admissions Guru at HowToGetIn.com suggests that you talk with your parents about what they can realistically afford. While you shouldn’t rule out a school based on cost just yet—a school may supply a generous financial aid package—it is safe to say that your parents will pay for at least part of your college education. Even if you expect to cover the bill with student loans, your parents will first need to provide the schools with information about their finances, which is a potentially uncomfortable experience. It’s best to keep your parents involved throughout and avoid surprising them

If at all possible, visit some of the schools in which you’re interested.

Source: The Princeton Review

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