If you are applying to college next year, it’s time to get serious about the application process. Here are five critical college application tasks for juniors:

  • Figure out a testing plan.

Ideally, you want to be done with your core standardized testing (ACT or SAT, and SAT subject tests if you need them) by June. June is optimal so that you use your scores to create a balanced school list, and because the early action and early decision deadlines come up really fast in the fall. Trust me, you don’t want to be testing in October.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to choose your test (take a diagnostic SAT and ACT and then decide which one to focus on), sign up for a prep class or decide which study materials you are going to use, and register for the exams. When finalizing your plan, remember that most people will sit for the test at least twice, and that the exams are only offered a few times a year. You also need to sign up pretty far in advance.

  • Take an honest look at your profile.

I know that it can be intimidating, but it’s time to look at your profile. How competitive are you for your target schools? What can you do to improve your profile before you apply?

  • Research schools and schedule visits.

Speaking of target schools, you should create a working list of schools that you are interested in. Visit as many top contenders are you can, and be sure to take notes and allow your list to shift and develop as you see more options.

  • Keep up your grades and choose your senior year courses strategically.

You have probably heard that junior year matters a lot – which is true. You might not know that senior year is also really important. Colleges want to see that you are continuing to challenge yourself and excel in rigorous courses, so keep that in mind when you are selecting courses for next year.

  • Organize your summer.

Plan to complete the bulk of your applications before you go back to school in the fall. Leave time for any remaining school visits, including trips to interview at schools that offer them. If you want to participate in an academic or service-oriented summer program, apply for those opportunities.

Investing time now and being proactive is worth it – it will make your college application process much smoother, more enjoyable and more successful.