It’s Junior Year – College and All of Its Opportunities Are Not Far Away!

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

-Nelson Mandela

11th Grade Is an Important Year

Colleges pay particular attention to your grades, activities and responsibilities this year. High school is familiar to you. Now is the opportunity to take it up another notch and show your capabilities.


There are more Advanced Placement (AP) courses  available to you as a junior. Colleges want to see you challenge yourself academically. Work with your counselor and register for those APs and Honors classes that interest you, in subjects that you excel.

If you work hard and do well on the AP exam in May of junior year, these courses can open doors to more selective colleges that have higher graduation rates, offer more student support and more financial aid that are not loans.

Deepen Your Involvement!  On the robotics team since 9th grade? Become a captain. Strong in English? Tutor 9th graders. Contribute your skills, your time and your effort into making your school and community an even better place to be. Colleges want to know how you spend your time. It gives them a sense of how involved you will be if you come to their school. What you choose to do is up to you!

Family Responsibilities and Work.  You may have family commitments or a job outside of school and cannot do after school activities, but in colleges’ eyes, that’s ok! They know that some students have commitments that preclude them from participating in after school activities. You may not realize it but you are learning desirable skills by taking care of your siblings or having a job to help pay the bills or save money.

Take on Leadership Roles

Take the PSAT in October

As long as the PSAT is offered at your school, take it!  A top PSAT score in your junior year could qualify you for a National Merit Scholarship for college.  The PSAT in 11th grade is also great PRACTICE for the SAT that you will take this year. Take the time to prepare for it with practice questions and tests. Here are three websites to check out for practice tests & questions:

Make sure you review your results to see where your strengths are and where you could use more practice.

Think about what you want to do this summer. You have an opportunity to get some experience in areas that interest you.

  • Attend an academic or enrichment program. Financial aid is often offered.
  • Intern or shadow a professional in a career you want to learn more about. Many internships are paid experiences.
  • You may have to get a job to help your family. That takes maturity and independence.
  • Be a counselor at a summer camp and improve your leadership skills.
  • If you have to take care of younger siblings all summer, it may not be what you want to do, but you will be learning leadership skills and how to be responsible for others.

Filling out your college application should be a priority this summer – The Common Application and the Coalition Application open by August 1. Don’t wait to write your personal statement and essays.  Get help with Access College Consulting.


The College Application Process

There is a lot of information here!  Bookmark this page and come back often.

The Application Process Takes Time and Effort.  BE ORGANIZED!

  • Get a notebook or create a folder on your computer where you save all of your college application process notes. Your notes are not only about the colleges you are considering, but also your strengths, interests and must-haves in a college. Write things down as you think of them.
  • Ask questions!  Have a separate page for questions that you can cross out as you get answers. There is no such thing as a bad question.
  • Review your notes often!
The SAT and ACT and Test Optional

The SAT and ACT are standardized college entrance tests. All students across the country take the test with the same sections and types of questions.

What is the difference between the SAT and ACT?
Check out this link from Princeton Review

What Does Test Optional Mean? Colleges that are Test Optional do not require you to submit SAT or ACT scores to apply to their schools. COVID-19 accelerated the number of colleges and universities that are test optional. Some continue to be, while other schools and programs are back to requiring them.  Check on the website of a specific college to see what its test policy is for the 2023-24 admissions cycle.

Cost Should Not Be a Barrier to Taking the Test. Talk to your school counselor to see if you qualify for SAT and ACT fee waivers to take the test at no cost to you.

Check out our Resources for more information about the differences between the SAT and ACT and for free test prep resources.

* Source:  Coalition for College Access, Inside College Admissions Webinar

Building Your College List

Not all colleges are the same.  There are more than 3,300 non-profit colleges and universities across the country. When you start to explore, the first thing you should do is the check a college’s graduation rate – 4-year and 6-year.  The 4-year should be at least 60%, the 6-year even higher.  At colleges with less, there is an increased likelihood you will leave with more debt and no degree!  Your goal is to graduate!  Find colleges that prioritize student support and graduation success.

Next, think about your academic strengths and what you may want to study.  If you are unsure what you may want to major in, that is ok.  The admissions representative from the University of Chicago explains.

What college features are important to you?  There are small, medium and large colleges. There are colleges in cities, suburban communities and rural towns. There are undergraduate only colleges and large research universities. There are all Women’s Colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Identify your must-haves, nice-to-haves and not important college features. Be open – they will change as you start to explore and visit campuses.

Here are a few reputable tools at your disposal to help you narrow down the choices and create a manageable list of schools to explore:

Naviance  Your school may have a partnership with Naviance. Ask your school counselor how to create an account.

College Board Big Futures –

Common Application

IMPORTANT TIP: When using the Common App to search for colleges, DO NOT select any of these that are in “Application for First Year Students” filter on the left hand side of the page:

  • Charges no application fee
  • No personal essay required
  • No letter of recommendation required
  • Accepts self-reported test scores
  • Test Optional/Flexible

Why Not?  Checking any of these will eliminate strong schools that may be good fits for you. If application fees are a stretch for you, check to see if you qualify for application fee waivers. No college worth considering wants affordability to be a barrier between you and applying to their school. The personal essay and letters of recommendation allow schools to get to know you beyond your transcript and activities. You don’t want to limit yourself to applying to Test Optional only schools. Many schools that typically require test scores are test optional for the 2022-23 admissions cycle, anyway.

Questions about your college list? Set up a free consultation with us.

College Visits

If you have not already started exploring college websites and visiting local ones, 11th grade is the time to start. You will not know at which colleges you would be the happiest until you visit different types of schools. An easy way to start is by visiting schools close to home, even if you do not want to attend them.

  • UConn in Storrs, CT – a large, state, research university
  • Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT – a smaller, private liberal arts college
  • Yale University in New Haven, CT – a medium size, highly selective college for top academic performers

Register for an Information Session and Campus Tour – Follow COVID-19 Safety Protocols
Nothing replaces the experience you get when visiting a college in person.  When you can do it safely, sign up for an information session and tour on campus.  If they are not offered, a live virtual session and tour are still helpful and give you the opportunity to ask an admissions representative or a student questions.

TAKE NOTES: What do you like, what don’t you like? Refer to them later when you are trying to distinguish among schools.

The College Application

The college application you fill out will depend on where you are applying.

  • Common Application – Used by more than 900 schools. The application opens August 1, but students can get a head start and create an account prior to that, fill out the basic information and use the account rollover feature once the application opens.
  • Coalition Application – Used by more than 150 schools who are “committed to improving access to higher education.” The application opens between July 1 and August 1 depending on the college. Students can create an account as early as 9th grade and save important documents and notes in The Locker.

Yes, there is overlap. Some colleges accept both applications – you only need to submit one application to each college.

Good to Know:  You do not have to know what you want to do as a career or even major in to apply to college.  It is ok to be undecided.  That is what college is for – to expose you to courses and careers that you may not even know you like.  That’s why many colleges do not require you to declare your major until second semester sophomore year.  If on the college application there are majors that relate to your interests, select them.  If you are unsure, select Undecided.

Have any questions about which application to use? Reach out to us.

Writing Your Essays

You have so much to offer.  Applying to college is a time to reflect and be proud of what you have accomplished in high school, in your community and personally. It is an opportunity to tell your story and share your hopes and dreams. Admissions teams want to hear about them and want you to join their college campuses to help you fulfill them.

Review each Personal Statement essay prompt.  Which ones resonate with you? What would you write about? This is the opportunity for admissions teams to get to know you beyond your transcript and activities. Make sure you answer the question that is being asked.  The admissions representative from Wesleyan University in Connecticut gives advice about your personal statement.

Supplemental Essays – Optional Does Not Mean Optional.  Many colleges will ask students additional short answer questions specific to their school. ANSWER THEM. If you want the best chance of being admitted to a college, especially a more selective one, answer all of the questions that are being asked in the application. Do your research and be specific about you and the college. Hear the admission representative from the University of Chicago talk about the Supplemental Essays.

Need help with your essays? Set up a free session with us!

Teacher Recommendations

The Common Application and Coalition Application requires that you submit three recommendations: one from your school counselor, one from one of your core academic teachers and one from another teacher or a mentor, coach.

For your teacher recommendation, ask someone who knows you, your work and how you contribute to the class.

TIP: Don’t wait until senior year to ask teachers and mentors for a college recommendation. Ask in May of your junior year. They may not write it immediately but at least you have given them time to set a side time to write it. Not only will they will thank you for asking them early, they will have more time to spend on your recommendation.

Questions about who you should ask and what they should write about? Set up a free session with us.

The College Interview

Take advantage of a college admissions interview if it is offered. Once you have submitted an application to a college, you may receive an email or phone call from an alumnus (someone who has graduated from there) or an admissions representative to schedule an interview. Take them up on it every time. It is an opportunity for the school to get to know you better beyond your written application and an opportunity for you to ask questions to someone who attended or works there.

Practice before you go. Reach out to set up a mock interview session with us.

Paying for College - Financial Aid and Scholarships

College is expensive BUT, there are billions of dollars in student aid from the federal government and from colleges to help you afford college. If you come from a low-income family, the cost of attendance on college websites (COA) is not what you will have to pay.

YOU MUST FILL OUT THE FAFSA AND CSS PROFILE TO RECEIVE FINANCIAL AID.  Everybody has to fill them out.  Your information will be confidential as long as you do not share your usernames and passwords with anyone.  

  • FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA usually opens October 1.  The Federal Government is making a lot of changes this year to make it easier to fill out.  In the 2023-24 admissions cycle, the FAFSA will not open until December.  Fill it out accurately and fill it out early to earn the most aid. You do not have to pay anyone to fill it out for you. Check out these helpful links on our Resources Page.

  • CSS Profile – Some private colleges and universities have additional institutional funds to help students pay for college. In addition to filling out the FAFSA, they require applicants to fill out the CSS Profile to qualify for this aid. The application opens October 1.  Check out these helpful links on our Resources Page.
  • Scholarships – there are many scholarships you can apply for that could earn you additional dollars to help pay for college. Check out the links on our Resources Page.

For more information about financial aid, visit our Resources Page

This is a lot to take in.  Bookmark this page and come back often.  Check out the other grades and our Resource Page for additional information. If you have any questions, set up a free 30 minute session with us.