5 Things Every College-bound Student Must Do – Before the End of their Junior Year Of H.S.

“Timing is everything”


I like this quote. And while I don’t think “timing” is truly “everything,” it does mean a heck of a lot when it comes to relationships, school, business, and life in general. 

And college planning is no different.  Timing is critical. 

You can do everything right in the college planning process but if your timing is off, you’re not going to get the results you want. In fact, it can cost you big-time.

That’s why this report is so important.  Your child’s Junior year is one of the most important (if not the most critical) year in the entire process.   And getting the right things done at exactly the right time is a challenge every family is faced with in the pre-college process.

You will notice on this list, that some of the things need to be completed by you, the parent. And some will obviously need to be done by your child. I’ve always said that the college planning process is a team effort. And teams work best when everyone does their part. Let this report be your family’s guide throughout the Junior year of high school.

With that said, here are the “5 Things You Must Do Before Your Junior Year Ends”…. 

1.  Start narrowing down a list of careers and majors

One of the absolute best ways to accomplish this task is to have your child get a part-time job, apprenticeship, or internship; or job shadow in a profession that interests them. Getting some real world experience or at least an up-close look at what a profession does on a daily basis is better than counseling alone can provide.

Don’t get me wrong, career counseling can certainly help significantly and it should be a part of every parent’s overall college plan, but it shouldn’t be the only help a child relies on in narrowing down a list of careers and majors. 

2.  List, compare, and visit colleges.

In choosing a college, there are several factors that should be considered. Listed for you here are the 4 main factors that should be used to determine the right college followed by several other smaller factors that can be taken into consideration when selecting a college.

1. Academics

  • What are the majors offered?
  • What percentage of graduates of that major get jobs and/or go onto graduate studies? 

2. Admission Requirements

  • What are the average test scores, GPA, class rank?
  • What tests are required?
  • Are there any special requirements? 

3.  Financial aid

  • What percentage of aid does each school meet?
  • What percentage of aid is in loans or work study programs?
  • What percentage of aid is in truly ‘gift’ aid? 
  • The new Net Price Calculator’s (NPC’s) that every college will be required to have, as of October 29th, 2011 should help with determining what kind of financial aid help a school can provide. But since these calculator’s are so new, I would still seek additional verification on the numbers that you are given.

4. Expenses

  • What is the estimated cost of attendance? (including tuition, room and board, meal plans, lab fees, miscellaneous expenses, average travel costs, etc…) 

Once these main questions are answered, your list of colleges can be even further narrowed by including these other factors: 

  • Location (how far from home),
  • Environment (urban or rural, religious affiliation),
  • Size (enrollment),
  • Housing (types and sizes), and
  • Activities (clubs, Greek system, athletics, intramurals) 

Once you’ve narrowed your list using this criteria, schedule a visit.  There is no better way to get a feel for what a school is like, than by getting a campus tour.  I think it’s even better to do the tour (if possible) while school is in session… so that you can really experience what day-to-day life is like at the college. 

3. Register, Study, and Take the SAT or ACT. 

Many colleges require (or at least recommend) that students submit test results as part of the admission application process. The ACT and the SAT are the two main national tests. 

Step one is to register for one of the available test dates in the spring of the junior year. Both the ACT and SAT can easily be registered for online. 

Test Preparation Tips:

  • Take a solid academic schedule throughout the Junior year.
  • Becoming familiar with the test.
  • Review sample test questions.
  • Practice, practice, practice. 

4. Research and implement all applicable financial aid planning strategies 

December 31st of the Junior year is a very important date in the college planning process. The year before college is considered the “base planning year” for financial aid purposes. Everything (financially speaking) that happens that year will be counted in the financial aid formulas.  Therefore, if you want to maximize any asset or income planning strategies, you should ideally have them done prior to January 1st of the Junior year. 

Before you jump to conclusions about whether you will qualify for aid or not, keep this ‘myth’ in mind:  Most middle and upper-middle class parents assume they won’t be eligible for any form of financial aid because they own a home and make over $75,000 per year. 

The reality is that many families with low six-figure incomes are eligible for some form of financial aid. There is over 150 billion dollars available each year from the Federal Government, states, colleges, universities, as well as private foundations and organizations. You just have to know how to get your “fair share”.  

Unfortunately, most parents give up before they even start and assume they won’t be eligible. This is exactly what the colleges hope you’ll do so they can keep more of these funds in their coffers. Don’t make this mistake. No matter how much money you make, you still should apply; you’ll probably be eligible for something.  And even if you’re not currently eligible, sometimes unforeseen things arise in our lives that affect our current income (job loss, medical expenses, etc…)  Having financial aid forms on file will expedite the process if an appeal or special circumstances letter is needed. 

5. Finalize and monitor your “college funding” plan

If you’re not already aware, there is going to be a sizeable bill coming for college, even if your child gets a great financial aid package, or numerous scholarship awards. Plan accordingly. 

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is waiting. Waiting to start saving for college. Waiting to start planning for how and where to get loans for college. Waiting to go after financial aid. 

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”         —  African Proverb 

The best time to start all of this is when your child is born. Chances are, since you’re reading this report, that is no longer an option. 

Don’t wait any longer. Get started now.  Take a look at your current situation, see if there are strategies you can implement to reorganize cash flow or increase your eligibility for need-based or merit-based  financial aid.  Get that proper college funding game plan in place.  You do not want to ‘wing it’ and soon find out that you put yourself in a situation where  your college loan payments are triple what your mortgage payments are! 

The bottom line is this…be proactive. Don’t be passive in the college process.  A little bit of planning ahead makes an ENORMOUS difference.  As T.Boone Pickens once said, “A fool with a plan is better then a genius with none”. 

To your successful college admissions,



Scott Weingold
Co-founder, College Planning Network, LLC,
Publisher, College Made Simple 

*source: www.actstudent.org – the not for profit organizer of the ACT.


Lisa Janasek, College Planning Network, LLC