The Junior Year Myth

Many students feel that junior year is the most important year for colleges to see, and while it is extremely important, it is not the most important year above all the others. The junior year is part of the complete package, not the end of the academic review for college admission. Senioritis is definitely known to discourage seniors from taking hard classes their last year, but fight the urge to take all easy classes in 12th grade. From an admission standpoint, all four years are important and senior year is definitely not an exception.  In fact, the progression from freshman year can be incredibly telling for how a student has performed over the four years. Ideally we like to see good, consistent performance across the four years or each year getting better and better.  We always say an upward trend is better than a downward trend.

“Why does senior year matter if I am applying early?”

I get asked this question a lot on the road because as the November 1 deadline nears seniors realize that their grades won’t be in by the time we read the application. This is the challenge of senior year because if you choose to apply early, we likely will only have first quarter grades when we receive your application. As a result, we are forced to look heavily at the courses you have chosen to take. When students ask me, “Why does senior year matter?” I answer, “Because we look very closely at the courses you have taken over your four years and your senior year schedule is a huge part of the curriculum review, especially because we won’t receive your grades.”

“How do I make the most of my senior year?”

Going into senior year, you may have the opportunity to pick your classes for the first time. The courses you choose are extremely important. Some students are tempted to take fewer courses as seniors, some look to take more “interesting” classes, and others look to take the most AP courses they can. Here are some tips for how to make the most out of your senior year.

  1. “I have all the courses I need to graduate …”
    • It is not uncommon for students to reach senior year and have nearly all of the credits that they need to graduate, but they aren’t looking to graduate early. If this is you, make sure you are still taking a full course load. While it may be tempting to take the required English and math courses and then a few study halls, colleges value a full four years of the five major subject areas (English, history, math, science and foreign language). Taking more credits than you need certainly doesn’t hurt; we want to see that your senior year is as full as your first three years.
  2.  “I have always wanted to take …”
    • We like to see that you add electives to your schedule such as psychology or sociology, but not in place of an academic course. Let’s say for example that you don’t like history and would like to take something else instead of Economics and Government your senior year. That is OK, but replace it with an academic course in another area that you like more. If you like sciences, can you double up on a science instead? We like to see that you are taking five academic courses in the main areas of math, science, English, social science, and foreign language. Just keep that in mind before adding woodshop to your schedule.
  3. “I want to take as many AP’s as I can …”
    • While we are definitely looking for challenge in your schedule, we also want you to take on appropriate challenge. Instead of taking four AP’s and getting C’s, take two or three and an additional honors course to still maintain your grades. On the flip side, taking an easy schedule to get all A’s is not what we are hoping for either. We are looking for a balance.

All in all, be sure to add challenge, continue to perform well and keep a full course load. It is tempting senior year to just take it easy, but know that we are looking at your courses very carefully. This is especially true when you are applying Early Action or Early Decision, because we won’t get to see your grades from that semester. Keep working hard. Junior year is important, but so is senior year!

Senior Admission Counselor