Erin William
Northeast News

If you’re a rising junior or senior, you may have started to envision life beyond high school. Maybe you’re looking to the future with excitement ready for where the next chapter of your life will take you – maybe you feel sick to your stomach at that exact idea. You may feel devastated at the fact that at this time next year you and your classmates will be in completely different scenarios with completely different people. Or maybe the idea of life beyond highschool hasn’t even crossed your mind yet. Just know, in whatever you are experiencing, you are not alone.

This guide shows highschool upperclassmen through the daunting processes of standardized testing, college admissions, trade school admissions, and other approaches to life beyond highschool through the eyes of a recent high school graduate. Students entering senior year are often burdened by feelings of anxiety, burnout and whiplash at their fast-approaching future. Breaking things down can make the process much easier.

The start of junior year is a great time for highschoolers to begin thinking about their futures. Junior year is typically the hardest year of highschool while simultaneously the most critical time for highschool upperclassmen to lay a proper foundation to achieve their post-graduation goals.

The sooner, the better; however, the most critical time for a student to get their future in place is the spring of their junior year as well as the summer and fall months before the start of their Senior year.

It is important for students envisioning what they would like to do in the future to consider all of their options and the career paths that they find fulfilling. During this process, students should research colleges, universities, and trade schools that match the goals they set and vision they have for their future.

When trying to decide between college, trade school and other options, the most obvious factors students should take into consideration is what they envision themselves doing when they leave high school. Those looking into trade school should consider what trade schools are looking for in prospective students.

Trade schools are looking for “students who are dependable, flexible” and who “like building something and seeing the finished project” come to fruition, Bob Kanatzar, trainer with MoKan Ironworkers said.

As stated by Kanatzar “There is a shortage of people who want to show up on time and every day.” Students considering trade school should fit into the criteria trainers expect.

Kanatzar mentioned one of the biggest differences between trade school and college is that students who enter trade school, “get paid immediately.” Additionally, during apprenticeship programs, it is common for students to study at their apprenticeship for a week and then go practice the skills they learned for a week as a form of practical learning.

Students should research all of the careers they find interesting and look into the requirements to be hired in such positions before making a decision on their next steps after graduation. Students looking into job positions that require college degrees should also look up scholarship opportunities and plan to apply to those alongside college applications. More information on scholarships is available on page 13.

For those looking to go into college, you will need to begin studying for standardized tests like the SAT and ACT the summer before your junior year, that way you can start testing in the fall of your junior year, giving you about a year to gain the score you need for admission to your goal institution.

Students should pick between the ACT or SAT, depending on their personal strengths and what their target colleges require, and begin studying for the exams, which are held on a monthly basis. The Princeton Review article “SAT V ACT: Which Test is Right for You?” is a great resource to help students understand the difference between the two standardized tests. When choosing between the standardized tests as with all major college application decisions students must also check in with a guidance counselor at their school.

Keep in mind, you have to pay to take the SAT and ACT, so it is important to limit the number of times you need to take the tests in order to save money. Sometimes a great investment can be practice exam books. The best standardized test booklets include:
• The College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide
• SAT Prep Black Book
• Baron’s ACT Practice Book
• The Princeton Review’s ACT Practice Book

You may also access free SAT prep from Khan Academy at

During the fall and winter months of junior year, students must maintain a grade point average to the highest of their abilities while also keeping a balanced lifestyle outside of school. While going through this process, it is important for students to keep in touch with their extracurriculars, passions and community involvement. Junior year is notoriously stressful for students.

At this point, juniors should be making lists of the colleges, trade schools and/or jobs they wish to apply to the summer before senior year. Making this list as early as possible gives students enough time to strategize how to get into their dream college, trade school or job offer.

The summer before senior year, students should be working to get ahead on their college, trade school or job applications so they don’t have to balance applications with their work during the school year. While it is unrealistic to get everything completed over the summer, the earlier a student starts, the longer they will have to review their work before submitting their applications. Students applying to colleges and trade schools should keep an eye out for important scholarship, financial aid and FAFSA deadlines during the fall of their Senior year.

One thing for students to avoid once having submitted all applications is the dreaded “senioritis”, a common “illness” or trap, seniors fall into during the winter and spring after they have either completed all of their applications or already secured a spot in their dream college or trade school. “Symptoms” usually include tardiness, skipping class, failing exams, and not turning in homework. The danger with senioritis is that all colleges and trade schools require their admitted students to graduate and obtain their high school degree before enrolling.

What students don’t realize is that these institutions reserve the right to revoke admission to students whose GPA drops below a certain level, who don’t graduate and who do not remain in good standing with their high school. Even after having attained their goals it is imperative that seniors in highschool do not fall in the trap of the dreaded senioritis.

For more information on the college process be sure to be proactive about checking in with your school’s college counselor. If you are unable to reach your college counselor check out The Whatsoever Community Center in Sheffield, which provides free college counseling opportunities for highschoolers and the “Path to College” bilingual organization that helps students with college counseling and securing scholarships.

For students looking to apply to trade schools be sure to visit the website of the schools you wish to attend. On the websites look for contact information to admissions officers and give them a call with further questions you may have. is a great resource for students to gain more information on the application process and trade schooling options available locally and nationally as well.

Best of wishes to all upperclassmen highschoolers embarking on their college admissions, trade school admission, or job application journeys. Stay on top of it, you’ve got this.


Erin William
Princeton ‘27