How to Prepare for College in 11th Grade

on August 1, 2016

Junior year is probably the most important when it comes to preparing for college. Here's what you need to do to get ready.

1. Take the PSAT.  If you do really well on the PSAT, you could be eligible for a National Merit or National Hispanic Scholarship.  

2. Attend college fairs and college presentations on your high school campus and in your community. If your school doesn't offer any, you can find local events at  

3. Research schools and start shopping for a college. Gather as much information as you can about the schools you're interested in and add them to your college list.

4. Talk to your parents about where college money is coming from. Will your family contribute money, or are you expected to cover the cost on your own?

5. Keep applying for scholarships.

6. Talk to your guidance counselor about the strength of your schedule. Most colleges are looking for English, math, social studies, science, and foreign language courses. Your schedule should be challenging, but not so hard you'll fail your classes.

7. Do any of the colleges you are researching want strong high school resumes? If you do not currently have extracurricular activities, NOW is the time to become active.

8. Take the Careers and Majors quiz to see what college degrees and jobs may be a good fit for your interests and skills. Consider if the careers you're interested in will change or become obsolete within the next few years. Is your career path in demand, or are many people with that degree unemployed? Additionally, will your wages be enough to pay off student loans, if you need to take them out? 

9. Keep in mind that junior year grades are very important. Work hard and don't slack on any projects, papers or tests!

10. Start working on your resume. Include all extracurriculars (clubs, organizations, jobs, awards) from the summer before high school until the end of high school.

11. Start getting letters of recommendation. Get at least three from adults who will say wonderful and personal things about you, are confident about your abilities and are not your parents. You can get letters from teachers, club sponsors people you volunteer or work for adult family friends, etc. You want them to be able to say something about your character.

12. Take a free practice SAT and ACT. Practice tests are a great way of preparing for college admissions tests. Some practice tests provide information about your strengths and weaknesses, so you know what you need to do to get where you want to go. In general, unless you are looking at Ivy League Schools, send your real test scores to colleges when you register for the tests. It will cost to send your scores after you have taken the tests. After you have taken free practice tests, decide if you need a formal test prep course. Don’t pay for tutoring unless you know where you need the help!

13. If you need information on fee waivers for the SAT, ACT or college applications fees, talk to your guidance counselor. There are definite criteria in order to get fee waivers. If this applies to you, you will save a lot of money on testing and application fee waivers.

14. If you are interested in an athletic scholarship, speak to your high school coach about how to approach playing sports in college.  

15. By now you've probably been accumulating college information that has come in the mail or that you've picked up at college fair. Start putting your information in an accordion file. You can file it by state, region or safety/reach/match school. You may want to file scholarship information and financial aid information in your accordion file, as well.

16. Start visiting the schools you're interested in. If you can't visit, see if there's a virtual tour on the college's website.

17. Look into summer enrichment programs at colleges for high school students.

18. If there are any financial aid seminars in your area, let your parents know. Financial aid can be complicated, so it's good to learn as much as you can early on.

19. Get a summer job. This can help you save money for school, learn a sense of responsibility and help you meet people who may be able to write recommendation letters for you in the future.

Barbara DiAlberto has been a College Advisor and Consultant for 18 years, both in the school system and privately. She has helped thousands of students get into college. As the Territory Manager for The Princeton Review, Mrs. DiAlberto is still helping students get into college.

Can I get Into...

We Know Your Chances. Do You?

What Are My Chances