High school juniors are entering the final leg of their critically important junior years. They are getting ready for AP tests, finishing final school projects, and prepping for ACTs, SATs, and SAT Subject Tests. Many are competing in various sports and competitions, performing in spring dances, plays, musicals, and concerts, and volunteering or interning.

Most juniors feel over-scheduled and are looking forward to their summer plans. Yet there is one schedule they cannot neglect to plan before school ends: a powerful senior year.

Here are five tips to help juniors plan strong senior year schedules.

          1. Plan an exciting and powerful senior year. Colleges want academically hungry, accomplished, and curious students. They want seniors to peak academically their senior year. They worry about students who take easy senior years with only a few core classes and fewer activities. So juniors ought to design a senior year schedule that shows their commitment to learning and their willingness to take advanced courses and explore new areas through electives. Remember, most colleges include fall grades in overall grade point averages.
          2. Take a rigorous schedule. Many juniors view senior year as the time to abandon content areas they dislike. Colleges want to see academic interest, not abandonment. Five cores plus one elective are ideal. So if a junior is not taking a foreign language senior year, he or she should not give up history or science. Remember, seniors will have to take math and language placement tests at the colleges they decide to attend. If they don’t take those content areas senior year, those tests will be harder for them and lead to even more classes in those contents when they are in college. Remember, the more competitive the college, the more rigorous a senior year schedule they expect.
          3. Do well. Private colleges and many public colleges see your fall grades. For students whose GPAs are on the rise, senior year is confirmation of their academic improvement. Wait-listed or deferred colleges may ask for spring senior year grades. All colleges that students decide to accept ask for spring grades. If students’ grades drop senior year, colleges often drop students.
          4. Use the summer and fall to take college classes or MOOCs.  Classes juniors take during the summer before senior year can enhance their GPAs. Classes taken senior year can also count academically and show academic initiative. These classes serve many purposes. Students can clear away Ds and Fs. They can pursue academic passions, and they can take a class to free up time to take another elective senior year. Colleges often award AP or honors status to college classes and often ask academic questions in their applications.
          5. If students do take an easier schedule, then they must fill their time with a job, volunteer work, or internship.Colleges want students to use their senior year productively. If students have a lighter academic senior year, then they should dedicate the amount of time they would have been in that class to an activity, internship, or job.


I empathize with juniors who want to include free periods and early dismissals in their senior year schedules, but parents, teachers, and counselors need to be strong in helping seniors see the power of a strong senior year.

By Rebecca Joseph