Junior Year College Planning

A parent of a high school junior discusses making a list of schools, planning campus visits, attending college fairs, and considering post-graduation possibilities such as a gap year or a community college.
Mom and teenage daughter college planning during junior year

It's hard to believe that as a parent of a now high school junior, we are more than halfway through her high school journey. I can easily think back to her early elementary years and remember art projects, field trips, recess time, and the space to have carefree days. Fast forward to high school, where we know that the academic pressure and expectations that started to build in ninth grade will continue to grow until graduation. It's an eventful time of life.

Parenting has taught me so many lessons. I've learned to be more empathetic, to listen more and talk less, and to validate feelings whenever possible. I've also learned to lose the template of what I think my child should be doing and instead learn to meet her where she is and build on her strengths. In the process, I hope to develop her sense of self, her ability to contribute in this ever-changing world, and, most importantly, to feel happy and grounded in the process.

Junior year can bring a dose of stress as students try to juggle courses, standardized tests, and extracurricular activities. And in addition, of course, students need to start thinking about college. In our household, we've begun that process with four tasks:

  1. Making a list of schools that peak my daughter's interest
  2. Starting to plan which schools to visit and when
  3. Determining the dates and locations of nearby college fairs
  4. Figuring out which colleges of interest plan to visit my daughter's high school

These tasks make sense for most college-bound high school juniors. But I've also begun to think more broadly about the post-graduation possibilities for my daughter. And these questions might make sense for your family as well:

  1. Would it be beneficial for my daughter to take a gap year?
  2. Would a trade school be a good option?
  3. Would it be better for my daughter to start at a community college?

Regarding the community college route, Massachusetts offers MassTransfer, a program that allows students to begin their studies at a community college in a specific major and then continue on to get a bachelor's degree at a reduced tuition rate at a Massachusetts 4-year school.

When I think of my daughter's strengths, math and physics have always been subjects in which she has excelled. Students at Berkshire Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, Springfield Technical Community College, and Monroe Community College in New York offer certificate programs in photonics as students complete their associate degrees. As you and your child research options for after high school, you might find similar programs.

As your family plans, make sure to take advantage of the nudges provided to students by your high school's guidance office. Some high schools also have a transition coordinator that can spend more one-on-one time with a student and really dig deeper into that student's interests and goals for the future. Somehow hearing advice from someone else is SO much easier than hearing it from a parent! Good luck as your family prepares for post-graduation life. And for some additional assistance, take a look through our Timeline for College Admissions and Financial Aid to help you and your child stay on track.

View our Timeline for College Admissions and Financial Aid