These next couple of years will go quickly, which means that it’s time to start thinking more seriously about the steps you are going to take following high school graduation.

The big hurdle of junior year is the “big test,” aka the ACT or SAT, but keep in mind that all of your studying and hard work will pay off. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to stay on track as graduation day approaches.

Students walking and biking in front of ISC

Fall: Tests and Applications

Take the PSAT

Your PSAT score could qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship and is another great way to prepare for the ACT or SAT that you will likely take in the spring.

Consider applying for a PSEO program

If you are a Minnesota resident hoping to spend your senior year as a full-time postsecondary options student, it is time to start thinking about your application. At Concordia, you can apply at any time during your junior year.

Keep up your test prep

There are many free resources available online to help you prepare for test day. Seek them out and be intentional about making time to study. A simple YouTube or Google search is a great way to start looking for materials.

Zahra Banks studying on laptop in library

Winter and Spring: The Big Test

Continue the college search

Winter break is a great time to compile a list of colleges you may want to visit in the spring, summer, and fall of senior year. Explore the websites of the colleges on your list and plan your questions in advance.

Take the ACT or SAT

Yes, the test matters, but don’t stress too much. Work hard to prepare, eat a good breakfast, and remember that you can always retake the test. While colleges often look at your test scores, they also consider your grades, extracurricular and community involvement, and admission essays.

Plan your senior year schedule

Senior year is not the time to slack. Continue to take challenging courses to help you grow as a student and prepare for college. Consider registering for Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment classes.

Start asking for letters of recommendation

Some applications will be due right away at the beginning of senior year, so it’s a good idea to have teachers or mentors in mind who could write you a shining letter of recommendation.

Close up of hands typing on laptop with Concordia website open

Summer: Planning and Preparation

Compile college application materials and schedule campus visits

Summer is a great time to compile transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, and anything else you may need while applying to schools. Make sure you are aware of all scholarship, early acceptance, and general deadlines.

Create an FSA ID and collect financial aid documents

You will need an FSA ID to fill out your Free Application for Student Aid and access any financial aid information with the U.S. Department of Education. The FAFSA opens Oct. 1, so be ready with your tax documents. It is always a good idea to apply, even if you don’t think you will qualify for aid.

Think about retaking the ACT or SAT

If you were not thrilled with your score, consider taking the ACT or SAT again in the summer or fall. Many students improve their scores when they take the test as a senior and spend more time preparing.

Search for scholarships

Scan local newspapers and websites for civic or service organizations in your community that provide scholarships to graduating seniors. Ask your guidance counselor for scholarship opportunities. Keep a file so you are ready to apply as soon as possible senior year.

And just like that, junior year is complete. This means that you only have one year left until you are off to college. See our senior year checklist. You’ve got this!