The Junior Year
Congratulations on becoming an upper class student! You’ve laid a solid foundation to begin the hard work of establishing yourself in your chosen major. You are now on your way to accomplishing your aspirations for a first-rate college education and career.
Declare Your Major
You should be fairly settled on selecting your major by now. If you are uncertain, take advantage of the assessment tools available in your campus career center. Talk to your academic advisor. Browse the reference area in your campus library. Talk to faculty mentors. Keep your investigation active and open.
If you have settled on a major course of study, be sure you’ve filled out and filed the paperwork necessary to officially declare your major. This is important if you want to be sure to have priority to register for classes that are popular in your major.
Satisfying Course Requirements
Meet with your academic advisor and an advisor in the major to be sure you’re on the right path to fulfilling all requirements for the degree.
- Have you completed your general education requirements?
- Are there pre-requisites for courses in your major that you need to take?
- What is the best sequence for completing courses in your major?
- Is there a senior exit requirement, comprehensive exam or thesis required to complete the major?
Double check these questions with your academic advisor as you near the end of your junior year so you will be on track for your senior year. Planning ahead will ensure that you will have no surprises when it comes time for commencement.
It is very important to focus on performing at your peak academically. In order to distinguish yourself for college honors, graduate school admission, a fellowship, a good job interview or an important internship, your academic record must reflect hard work and achievement. Grades, and the strong letters of recommendation from faculty that result from your hard work and GPA, are a necessary factor to compete in this global economy. Always do your best and push yourself to do better.
Get to know your faculty. Take full advantage of the office hours of the faculty and teaching assistants to find answers to your questions and to build upon these relationships. This will be especially important if you choose to apply to graduate school.
Living Your Dream
Become the professional you strive to be, starting now. Attend colloquia, seminars, films and book talks related to your major and ignite your passion for the subjects you pursue. Join campus organizations or student publications that support your major and engage with other students about these subjects. Participate in student conferences in your major discipline whenever possible. Consider fieldwork in your program, if appropriate. Immerse yourself in learning all that you can while you have the tremendous resources of a great university at your fingertips.
Take the Lead
Work to gain as much experience as time allows. There are several avenues to accomplish this.
Take a job in your field. Look for work that will support your learning process. Does your department have a job placement board? Are there work-study positions in your department? Are there companies or agencies in your community that will further your goals?
Pursue an internship. There is a lot of value in pursuing internship or research opportunities. A short or long term placement with seasoned professionals doing work that will help you get a real world sense of a particular work environment is an important way to test and verify your goals. If you perform well in an internship, it could possibly lead to future contacts.
Find the appropriate office on campus and look at what is available to you in the way of experiential learning. There are other resources as well such as INROADS to assist you in your search. Many internships are unpaid, while others require a certain time commitment. Ask questions and discuss your decision with an advisor to be sure that this is the right path for you. Get reliable advice about how to write a resume and cover letter. First impressions are very important. The summer between your sophomore and junior year is an ideal time to begin an internship.
Look into volunteer work in the field. Is there a community organization that reflects your value and aspirations? Take a leadership position in a campus organization or start one of your own.
These are a few ways to acquire knowledge and experience and to distinguish yourself from the competition. Become active in any way you can.
Thinking About Graduate School
The decision about whether or not to apply to graduate school will be one of the most important steps in your life. Lots of planning is required, so you will need total focus and commitment to begin this decision-making process. Remember, most graduate and professional schools have a deadline for applications that is about nine months to one year ahead of entry. So if you think you may want to go to graduate school the year after you graduate, you must decide by the end of your junior year if you are to meet deadlines and give it your best. A few primary questions you must answer before you jump in:
- What are you reasons for going to graduate school? Will a graduate degree specifically further your career goals? Do you have the personal resources and ambition to complete a two or four-year graduate program? Graduate school requires tremendous academic focus. If you are undecided, it may be a good idea to also spend more time looking at your options.
- When is the best time for you to apply to graduate school? You may want to capitalize on your momentum and your skills while they are fresh. You may want to take some time to gain other experience and gain more clarity before taking the steps necessary to apply.
- Is graduate school financially feasible? Do you qualify for fellowships? Are you ready to make the financial commitment required?
Talk to your faculty advisor and the professionals in your campus career center to get the best advice about whether you are ready to make this decision. Understand what is required in terms of time, energy and money and forge ahead. If you decide to apply to graduate or professional school in the fall of your senior year, you will need to get started in the summer prior to your senior year. See the Applying to Graduate or Professional School information page to learn about what is required in the process.
When you make the decision to apply to graduate school, you will need the financial resources to do so. Graduate school application fees, fellowship application fees, entrance exam fees, exam score fees and transcript costs all add up to a very expensive process. If you are applying to programs that require an interview, such as medical school, this is another expense for you to consider. Most schools have application deadlines in December or January for admission for the following academic year, so you will need to study and be prepared to take entrance exams in the Fall semester of your senior year. Make sure you will have a summer job or a personal loan if necessary to help defray these costs. Also, look into whether there are fee waivers available for students on financial aid.
As you work your way through your junior year, the most important thing you can do is to continue to strengthen your performance, your awareness of career and professional options and your support network. This will all serve you well in the long run and will feed your motivation to do your best.