Mapping Your Future: Four things a high school junior should do now to prepare for the future


Four things a high school junior should do now to prepare for the future

By Catherine Mueller

November 29, 2023

Although high school juniors in most cases shouldn't complete the FAFSA until their senior year, there's still plenty of things they can be doing to prepare for education after high school.

Completing the 2024-25 FAFSA when it is available later in December will be important for high school seniors who want to seek financial aid to help pay for their college education. However, since juniors won't be attending college until the 2025-26 academic year, they should wait until the fall of 2024 to complete the FAFSA.

So, what to do in the meantime? Juniors can act now to plan for their future and any steps they take during their junior year will make them all the more ready for the FAFSA when it is time for them to complete it.

Here are four things that juniors can be doing right now:

  • Explore careers. Use Mapping Your Future’s CareerShip to explore different career paths and learning about job opportunities in those career paths. Knowing what careers are of interest will help you select a college that offers a program of study that aligns with your career goals.
  • Research colleges. Use the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard to learn about colleges you may want to attend. The scorecard provides information that will help a student determine if a college is a good fit – such as the cost of attendance, the admissions rate, the location, and programs of study – to mention just some of the data shared on the scorecard. By doing this research as a junior, a student will be ready to list the colleges they're interested in attending when they complete the 2025-26 FAFSA.
  • Estimate financial aid. Use the U.S. Department of Education’s Financial Aid Estimator to receive an estimate on the amount and type of financial aid you could receive. This tool only estimates federal financial aid (It doesn’t include any state, institutional or private financial aid) but this information will help students choose a college that is a good fit financially.
  • Apply for scholarships. You don't have to wait until you are a senior to apply for scholarships. In fact, by doing research on scholarship opportunities and applying for as many as you can during your junior year will free up some time during your busy senior year. The more scholarships you seek, the better chance you have of receiving valuable scholarships to pay for your education.

Although juniors should wait to complete the FAFSA, that doesn't mean you should wait to do any college planning until you are a senior. Taking these actions as a junior will help you be on track to planning a successful future.