For many students the path to university in the United States is a fairly traditional one. You complete four years of high school and then go on to college. However, there are those who take the non-traditional route. Some students take a gap year to figure out what they want to do in college, while others may be ready to apply in their junior year.
Here we look at if you should apply to college as a junior and how you go about doing that.
While the simple answer is, yes, you can apply to college as a junior. However, you might have to do some research in this regard. In most high schools, graduation and your class status is determined by the number of credits you have received. So by that measure, anyone who has completed the required credits, should be able to apply in their junior year.
Let's look at this from several angles. First, from a college perspective, most colleges do not have specific requirements that all applicants must have completed four years of high school. However, because there is no specification, there is also no specific route you can take when applying as a junior. The requirements don’t change for juniors vis-a-vis seniors. This means that you have to complete the same number of requirements as your senior counterparts but with less time. Further, some colleges require a certain number of core classes that you might not be able to complete within three years. So, you have to do the work and research to ensure you meet the requirements for each college you are interested in applying to.
The other perspective is that of your high school. Many colleges require a high school diploma to be considered for admission. You will need to make sure that your high school will actually allow you to graduate after three years instead of the four. You will also need to ensure that you will receive your high school diploma to be considered for admission. Also, you will need to see whether your high school will help you with admissions in your junior year. You will need to provide transcripts as well as recommendations from your teachers. If your high school is not ready to help you, the process can become even more complicated.
While most colleges do not have a separate application for juniors, you will have to fulfill each step of the application process essentially a year earlier. This means you should start planning and collecting all the required documents in the last term of sophomore year, the summer and the first term of junior year. As deadlines are also not different for juniors and seniors, it is important to plan well ahead of time.
One main factor to focus on would be taking the SAT or ACT tests. While many universities are still test-optional, make sure to research your university choices to understand what standardized test scores they need. You will need to take the test a year earlier than planned and also understand that you may not have the time to retake the test for better scores.
You will also need to complete all admission requirements, including all taking all classes, collecting letters of recommendation and fulfilling extracurricular requirements a year earlier.
Here are a few things you should do if you are looking to apply to university in your junior year:
As such you can apply to most colleges with a three year degree. However, please research each individual institution you are considering and figure out if lack of a high school year will affect your application.
This is probably the most important question you should ask yourself when considering applying early. Any college you apply to will also want to know the reason behind you wanting to apply early. If you are ahead in high school and have completed all the requirements, then applying early might make sense. However, applying early just so you are ahead of the age curve will not help your admission.
If you feel you are ready to apply as a junior, think about what else you could achieve with the extra time in high school. Perhaps you could take some college level courses and get credit when you go to university. You could also work on some aspects of your application that might help you get a good scholarship and hence save you some money.
That said, there is no harm in applying early to university even if you get rejected. Most universities allow you to apply again even if you have been rejected once. Maybe a good way to look at junior year admissions would be to make a list of dream schools and only accept them if you get into those programs. Otherwise, take the senior year of high school to improve your profile and apply again.
Applying to college as a junior is not the easiest way to get into your dream school. Unless you are absolutely certain about your choices, we suggest that you complete the four years of high school. However, it can be a challenging and rewarding experience that can set you on the career path you want faster than your peers.
It is best to do the bulk of the work required for college applications in your junior year so you do not miss any important deadlines when the time comes in your final year of high school. Make sure you have completed all the required classes, have the required grades and have a complete extracurricular roster so you are on the right track.