Can Juniors in High School Apply to Colleges?

An Ivy-covered building between trees is featured at Princeton University.
While students can apply to colleges as juniors in high school, we at Ivy Coach strongly discourage it.

If you’re wondering if you can apply to college as a junior, the answer is yes, you canBut it’s a qualified yes. Because should you? No. While high school juniors who will fulfill their high school’s graduation requirements by the conclusion of their third year are technically eligible to apply to America’s elite universities, with admission rates for the 2022-2023 admissions cycle setting or nearing historic lows, it does not behoove applicants to apply a year before one’s peers.

Yet they can still apply. So let’s dive into the pros and cons of applying to college as a junior in high school and how juniors would navigate applying to colleges a year ahead of time.

Why You Should Apply to College in Junior Year

  • You get to move on from high school to start college a year earlier and, ultimately, begin a job or graduate school a year earlier. If you’re a target of bullies, it’s one less year to be in their presence. If your parents drive you crazy, it’s one less year to be around them too. No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.

Why You Should NOT Apply to College in Junior Year

  • It will make it harder to get into top universities. It’s already hard enough. Now you’re going to compete against students who have taken an extra year’s worth of classes and participated in an additional year’s worth of activities? And don’t say that you’ve already exhausted your high school curriculum because you can always go above and beyond your high school curriculum by taking courses online or at local colleges. We’re in the age of online learning!
  • Think of all the coursework, testing, and activities you could have presented had you waited to apply as a senior with a stronger application. Did you take 20 AP exams, scoring 5s on all of them? Because at Ivy Coach, we’ve had students present 15-19 5s on AP exams. Did you take Multivariable Calculus, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra after you completed BC Calculus? Because we’ve had students who’ve gone above and beyond even this math curriculum. By applying during your junior year, you’re cutting off the potential of your application. AP exams alone are only offered in May of each year, so you can only include freshman and sophomore year AP exams on your applications.
  • You’ll come across as less likable to admissions officers when the whole game is about inspiring admissions officers to root for you. Do you think you’re so bright, and that’s why you’re applying a year before everyone else? Yes, that’s how they very well might see it.
  • You’ll have to squeeze in college visits a year earlier in high school because if you don’t visit, don’t plan on getting in. Visiting is a crucial way of demonstrating interest to colleges. And colleges love to be loved since they want to admit students they believe will matriculate.
  • If you don’t secure the desired results, you’ll have to check that you previously applied when you re-submit as a senior. And admissions officers can return their attention to your prior applications.
  • You’ll be a year less mature when you start college. We know you think you’re an adult. But, in our experience, there’s a big difference between being seventeen and eighteen. Do you know how to do laundry on your own? Do you know how to separate towels from button-downs? Blue tees from white linen pants?
  • You will risk alienating your school counselor, teachers, and high school administration. Your school counselor and teachers anticipate writing letters of recommendation on your behalf the summer before your senior year. They don’t expect to write these letters a year beforehand. It will likely rub them the wrong way (they may not even know you by this juncture), and when your goal is to secure compelling letters of recommendation, it indeed undercuts your objective. Heck, you may even find that the administrator in charge of submitting your transcript and other supporting documentation isn’t in your corner either. These things matter.

Which Colleges Allow a Student to Apply as a Junior?

Most of America’s colleges allow students to apply who anticipate fulfilling their graduation requirements as juniors. In fact, most schools typically don’t specify that high school students need to be seniors to submit applications. But with below 10% overall admission rates at Ivy League and other highly selective schools, who cares if one’s allowed to apply? A C student can apply to Princeton University. It doesn’t mean that the student is getting in.

How to Apply to College as a Junior in High School

If you’re intent on applying to colleges as a junior — against Ivy Coach’s explicit advice — everything you would do if you applied like a typical high school senior would need to be completed a full year earlier. This timeline would be as follows:

  • By May/June of sophomore year, have an idea of the colleges you want to apply to so you can start visiting before school lets out for the summer. While students often have no choice but to visit some schools over the summer months, we always prefer students to visit during the school year so they can see actual students on campus. We don’t want students enrolling at Brown only to realize that many students have purple hair. Purple hair isn’t for everyone!
  • By May/June of sophomore year, meet with your school counselor for the junior year counseling meeting. Only it’s a sophomore-year meeting for you! You’ll need to ask them to prepare your letter of recommendation in advance (which will require you sharing compelling anecdotes — typically in a junior year counselor form). You’ll also need to ask them to prepare your transcript and other supporting documentation in advance.
  • By May/June of sophomore year, ask two teachers for letters of recommendation. If they offer you forms, how you complete these forms will go a long way to how they approach their letters. If they don’t have forms, you’ll want to share with them detailed anecdotes that showcase your love for the curriculum and your contributions to the class. Of course, we’d always prefer students secure letters of recommendation from two junior-year teachers. That won’t be possible for sophomores applying as juniors!
  • During the summer before junior year, complete all of your college applications — for both the Early Action/Early Decision round and the Regular Decision round. This includes finishing all of the many essays, the activities section, and the non-essay portions of each respective application.
  • In early November, submit your Early Action/Early Decision application(s). If you earn admission in mid-December, you could be done with the college admissions process. If you’re deferred or denied admission, you will submit Regular Decision applications around January 1st (if you don’t come to your senses first and reconsider applying to these schools as a high school junior).

Should a Student Apply to College as a Junior?

As you may have noticed, we included only one potential pro of applying to college as a junior in high school. And that’s telling. It’s because we at Ivy Coach believe that applying a year early to college is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. What’s the rush? Why hinder your chances of earning admission to the best college you can get into by submitting applications when they’re only half-baked? So turn up the oven to 360° and let your candidacy bake. Take it out during the fall of senior year — when it’s ready and delicious!


You are permitted to use (including the content of the Blog) for your personal, non-commercial use only. You must not copy, download, print, or otherwise distribute the content on our site without the prior written consent of Ivy Coach, Inc.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *