Juniors: Why You Need To Excel Academically This Year

As a high school junior, it's important to look ahead to the college admissions season and begin to prepare academically now.
A Junior Studying

It's the beginning of the school year, and high school seniors will be in the thick of college admissions for the next several months. Though their schoolmates in the junior class won't yet be writing college essays or completing applications, it's just as important that these juniors look ahead to the college admissions season and prepare academically now.

Jon Korhonen, Associate Director of Admissions at Boston University, knows the significance of junior year academics first hand, having reviewed thousands of high school transcripts in his years of experience working in college admissions. Read Jon's words below as he shares why it's so important for high school juniors to do their very best in their classes this year.

"College admissions offices look for an array of characteristics in their applicants. We look for students who are likely to be academically successful, who will be active members of our community, who have sincere interest in our school and want to be members of our student body, and who have earned their place in our class with the work they have done through four years of high school. As a college student, you are going to be involved with an array of activities, clubs, organizations, and are sure to have a busy schedule! You will, however, always be a student first, and academics reign supreme during your time as an undergraduate student. As such, your academic success in high school is undoubtedly the most important part of our application review.

One of the best indicators for academic success in college is strong high school performance in rigorous coursework. The best way to present yourself to an admissions committee is to show you have challenged yourself with both your course selection and in your grade performance. Admissions offices will review (no surprise I'm sure!) your grades for all four years of high school. We often begin our review by looking at your cumulative GPA. Perhaps more important than your cumulative average, though, will be the trends in your grades. We will look at each grade for each class, see where your strengths and weaknesses are by each subject, and also look at the progress you have shown from freshman to sophomore to junior to senior year. While all grades and all years of high school will be reviewed, your junior year is perhaps the most important year of high school. We will be reviewing your senior year grades (and they will be important!), but will only have 1-2 terms or 1 semester of work to review from 12th grade. Your junior year will show us a full year of work, in likely some of the more challenging courses of your high school career, and will loom large in our review. In short, junior year is very important!

I always remind students and families that there are lots of aspects of the college admissions process that are out of your control. To manage your stress (I've heard this is a somewhat stressful process?), I would recommend for you to worry about only those aspects of what you can control. Remember that you can't control the past. You can't control or change, for example, your grades from your early high school years. You CAN control the grades of the present. Keep in mind that applying to college is a lot like packaging yourself. Essays, extracurriculars, and personal qualities are the ways you add some personality and dimension to the most important part of your application: your academics and, mainly, your transcript. In short, keep those grades up in good courses and you will fare well!!"

Jon Korhonen has worked in the Admissions Office at Boston University since 2009 and currently serves as the Associate Director, overseeing Early Decision and Transfer Admissions. Prior to his work at BU, Jon served as Assistant Director of Admissions at UMass Amherst. He has a BA of Communication from UMass Amherst and a Masters of Education from Harvard.