Mapping Your Future: Four decisions high school juniors can think about now to get a jump on their senior year


Four decisions high school juniors can think about now to get a jump on their senior year

By Catherine Mueller

July 27, 2022

Your senior year of high school could be a breeze.

Or, well, at least a lot easier if you take some action during your junior year (or even earlier) to get a jump on some of those senior year demands. It all comes down to understanding what you will need to do in your senior year, knowing what you can do in advance, and checking off as many tasks as soon as you can.

There are four major decisions you will need to make during your senior year: selecting a career, applying for financial aid, choosing a college, and developing college financing and in-school budgets.

  • Select a career. If you’re a high school student, you’ve probably been thinking about the type of career you want. Making a final decision about what you want to do for the rest of your life can be overwhelming but remember that you aren’t necessarily choosing a specific job. Research careers, if you haven’t already done so, and make sure any colleges you consider attending offer your career field of interest.
  • Apply for financial aid. You won’t be able to complete the FAFSA until after October 1 of your senior year, but you can get an idea of your eligibility for federal financial aid. You can use the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Aid Estimator. This tool can be helping in knowing what colleges or programs you can afford to attend and that will help you choose a college. Finally, don’t wait until your senior year to research and apply for scholarships. You can apply for some scholarships before your senior year and, for those applications that must be submitted your senior year, you can at least review and understand any requirements. You can use the Mapping Your Future scholarship tracker to help you get organized with your applications.
  • Choose a college. The actual college decision won’t come until your senior year, but before you apply for admission, narrow your list of potential colleges to those that offer programs in your career of choice and in that are a good fit in terms on location and size. You will need to include any potential colleges on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) so it’s good to have the list for that reason. Also, you will save time in your senior year if you have done your research in advance and already know if the college is a good fit.
  • Develop a budget. Getting a handle on your budget ahead of time is always a good idea to avoid any financial surprises. You should develop two budgets: One budget to determine how you will pay for college (financial aid, savings, scholarships, earnings, etc.) and another budget to estimate your monthly expenses. Granted, you may not have a good handle on all your expenses for your first year of  college, but now is a good time to research what living expenses you might have. For example: Will you have any transportation costs? Or do you plan to use the college meal plan?

The nice thing about doing all of these tasks in advance?

It’s not only going to make your senior year a lot easier. It’s also going to make you a lot more prepared for college.