Junior and Senior Graduation Timeline
For a high school student, the junior year is more than just a precursor to graduation. It’s the perfect time to plan for an amazing senior year! The senior year is bittersweet: the grand finale takes place but the year is packed full of to-dos. Need a little guidance in navigating these last two years? See what we’ve put together to help!
Junior Year: Fall
The fall of your student’s junior year is a good time to take the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test). The test – also known as the NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) – serves as both a “practice” for the SAT and as a means of assessing your student’s chances at qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship.
Homeschooled students can start earning college credit while still in high school. The three ways students usually do this are:
Sometimes, students do a combination of these and take some AP classes and some Dual Enrollment courses. Other times, students prefer to stick to one path. What your student does is up to your family but there is no “right” or “wrong” way to go about doing it. In some states, students must be enrolled as a homeschooler through the county for the last two years to qualify for Dual Enrollment. If your student is interested in Dual Enrollment, it would be a good idea to look into your state’s requirements.
This is also a great time for your student to start making a college list. He or she can determine which schools are under consideration and start scheduling tours of college campuses. Additionally, your student will want to create a testing plan. Will your student take the SAT or the ACT? Perhaps your student will take both. Is your student taking any AP courses? If so, the exams will be in May and you can contact College Board to find out how and where your student can take the tests. Homeschooled students need to make arrangements for all of these tests on their own. Creating a testing plan during your student’s junior year provides ample time to address all the necessary tests.
Junior Year: Winter
The winter season of your student’s junior year is a good time to get involved in extracurricular sports and activities. By the time your student graduates, he or she will have been involved for the last two years of high school. On a transcript, that looks much better than something only done for a couple of months. Also, participating in sports can open the doors for athletic scholarships!
Winter is a great time for your student to narrow down college choices and organize necessary information. It would be a good idea for your student to dedicate a drawer or filing cabinet specifically for college information. There, your student can keep track of college brochures and copies of applications, as well as grade records and transcripts. This would also be a good place for your student to store scholarship applications and information needed for financial aid. If your student is filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), for instance, he or she will need your tax information so keeping a copy in this drawer will prove to come in handy.
Junior Year: Spring
By the time spring rolls around, your student is nearly finished with junior year! The hustle doesn’t stop there, though. In some ways, it’s just beginning. For example, scholarship searches take place this time of year. LetsHomeschoolHighSchool.com keeps a running record of scholarships that end monthly. Since they update this page quarterly, it’s a great site to bookmark.
The spring of junior year also makes a good time to create your student’s senior year schedule. Many states have graduation requirements your student may need to fulfill. While homeschoolers are usually not bound to this requirement, you also don’t want your student placed at a disadvantage against others. For this reason, it’s a good idea to meet or exceed what he or she would take in public school.
Junior Year: Summer (before Senior Year)
The summer before senior year is your student’s final summer as a high school student. What an exciting time! With the whole summer off, your student can pack a lot into this final summer starting with college tours. The schools your student chose to visit back in the fall will likely welcome a summer tour. Some colleges also offer self-guided tours where you print a map with QR codes and use it to guide your visit. This summer, help your student prepare for college applications and look at Priority Application deadlines. These will often be in December or January and your student can apply during senior year.
Senior Year: Fall
Start your student’s senior year off with a bang by finalizing the list of colleges and registering for the SAT or the ACT! Of course, your student will certainly want to stay on track academically for the remainder of the year. It’s tempting for students – especially those who’ve already been accepted into college – to slack off senior year. Colleges can always rescind their acceptance. Stress to your student that colleges expect students to keep up the same level of academic achievement for the remainder of their time in high school. If they see your student’s grades plummet (say, from As and Bs to Cs and Ds), they can certainly revoke their acceptance. The best way to prevent this is for your student to keep up the good work so the final transcript looks just as nice.
This is also a good time of year to start requesting letters of recommendation for college admission. Depending on the school your student hopes to attend and the program of interest, the number of letters can vary. Many schools are also specific about who may write these letters. For Christian schools, for example, letters from church leaders are important. For non-Christian schools, letters from people who know your student’s academic potential carry a lot of weight. In most cases, schools want two letters but some only want one and others want three. It’s important to find out exactly what the school your student is interested wants and seek to obtain those.
Senior Year: Winter
Winter of your student’s senior year makes for a great time to take advantage of any early acceptance letters. If your student already knows which school he or she will attend, feel free to start filling out the FAFSA. The school will have a 6-digit FAFSA code you’ll need, and this information is often found at the school’s financial aid website. If your student’s school doesn’t accept federal aid, this would still be a good time to apply for whatever financial aid the school does offer. Many Christian schools don’t accept federal aid which means you won’t have to fill out the FAFSA. It really just depends on the school your student is interested in and what they accept. If your student’s chosen school doesn’t accept federal aid, you can look into scholarships the school may offer or re-visit LetsHomeschoolHighSchool.com’s lists of scholarships that end monthly.
Senior Year: Spring
Crunchtime is in full effect by spring of your student’s senior year! Your student may feel the pressure of choosing a school, but most of the things in this post will be out of the way by this time of your student’s senior year. If your student has decided on a school, he or she can take this time to explore college majors. Just like junior year, if your student is taking AP (Advanced Placement) courses, the spring is the time to prepare for the AP exams that take place each year in May.
For students, the junior and senior years are critical. Getting – and staying – organized will make the difference between smooth sailing and a rough tide. Be on the lookout for opportunities to make the most of those last two years with your student!
Tasha is a homeschooling mom to 5 and has been homeschooling for 14 years. Currently, her children's ages span from toddler to young adult. Tasha has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Social Sciences from Florida State University and is working on her MBA through SNHU/Berklee School of Music.