5 Ways to Maximize Your Junior Year of College

by Ben Kissam

With two years down and two to go, many students feel a bittersweet sense of satisfaction entering their junior year of college. You might experience a similar feeling! On the one hand, you’re an upperclassman again for the first time since high school and you’re experienced at navigating college. On the other hand, you’re less than two years away from graduating and entering the real world (or going to graduate school).

A lot is going to change in the next two years, so doing everything you can to maximize your productivity and enjoyment during the final stretch is a great idea. Here are five tips for doing just that and getting the most out of your junior year.

1. Pick the Right Classes

By now, you’ve got a handful of credits under your belt. With only four semesters left, you’ll want to meet with your academic advisor to make sure you’re on the right path toward graduation.

Junior year is also a great time to get your challenging classes out of the way. At the very least, try to take a few of them, so you don’t get stuck taking a slew of demanding courses during your senior year.

2. Build Your Résumé

Junior year is a good time to get hands-on experience in your chosen field. Virtual internships are becoming more commonplace, so look for intern positions that accommodate remote work. This can give you a taste of what your future career may be like, and the experience is extremely valuable.

You’ll also have opportunities in your classes to apply learning in similar ways and gain professional-level experience. Consider using project assignments to benefit real organizations. For example, a business student might create a marketing plan for a start-up, a design major might develop a logo for a nonprofit, or a music student might compose a song for their church’s worship team. Ask your professor for tips on how to get the most practical experience from your class projects. Many instructors build these kinds of projects directly into your courses.

Apply your knowledge and creativity—and remember that you can include professional projects on your résumé. And practical experience looks fantastic on any future applications to graduate school.

3. Consider Your Research Interests

Whether you’re planning to continue your studies or enter the workforce after graduation, you very well may find yourself doing research in the future. Much of grad school centers around research, and some undergraduate programs require you to complete a thesis or project during your senior year. Your junior year of college is a great way to get a head start on this.

Use the year to brainstorm areas or topics you’d like to focus on, talk with your advisor, or even play around on an academic journal search engine like ScienceDirect or Google Scholar. You might notice a topic you’re interested in that’s lacking in research.

4. Network, Network, Network

Something you’ll hear a lot once you’re out in the “real world” is that it’s all about who you know. While it might seem cliché, it’s rooted in truth! Many college students’ first job interviews come from someone they know directly or from that person passing along their name.

With two years left in school, it’s a good time to start planting seeds that could blossom into professional opportunities down the road. Network with intent. Ask yourself, “Who can I serve or help right now? Who can I do great work for that might be able to help me down the road?”

Here are a few individuals to reach out to:

  • Academic advisors
  • Internship supervisors
  • The professors you’re closest with
  • Graduate assistants that you’ve worked closely with

Your friends count, too. Sure, you’re technically both students still—but you never know who might connect you later on. This is precisely why so many APU students choose to stay connected with the school’s alumni program after graduation.

5. Stay One Step Ahead

You’re in a unique position this year. So much is on the horizon that it can all feel a bit overwhelming, but the end is now in sight.

That’s why the final piece of advice is to stay one step ahead during your junior year of college. Time is on your side, and with the right plan and execution, you can make moves this year that pay off through senior year—and beyond.

Looking to get a head start on your junior year at APU? Explore APU’s resources for a list of services to support you in your college journey, such as the Academic Success Center.