This document was last updated in June 2019.

Junior year is an important one for high school students, and things kick into full gear in the spring. The following questions and answers will guide you through what you need to know to assist your student during this time.

This section includes:

Use the FAQs for parents of sophomores for information on the fall of junior year.

In most cases, we recommend that your child take both tests. It is best to have options to send to colleges. Kaplan has put together a fairly comprehensive list of the differences, and has samples that your student can use to make a decision on which one will work best.  With the new SAT from the College Board, the tests are more similar than ever, but students may still score better on one than the other.  Colleges will accept either test, and will use the highest scores for admissions purposes. As always, students should consult with their counselor before registering..

It depends on the student, but in most cases, we recommend taking the tests in the spring of junior year and again in the fall of senior year.

Super scoring is a feature offered to colleges and universities by the College Board (SAT) and ACT, and most colleges use it.  Your student’s highest score from each test category is sent to colleges. So, for example, if s/he tests higher on the SAT English in May and higher on the SAT Math in October, colleges will combine the highest scores from the different test dates to calculate the student’s total, and they will use that total in the admissions process. Super scoring is only used within the same testing company’s tests, in other words you cannot mix and match SAT and ACT scores.

The “old” SAT was administered to students before March of 2016. If you have a student who graduated in 2016 or earlier, you might be interested in the differences between that test and the one administered currently. You can review the differences here:

Taking the SAT essay means that, no matter which schools you end up applying to, you will absolutely have all their SAT requirements met. If you decide to apply to a new school that requires the SAT essay, that won’t be a problem because you’ll already have taken it. If you already are absolutely certain about which schools you’re applying to and none of them require the essay, then this may not be a big deal to you. If you’re not sure which schools you want to apply to, then you should take the SAT essay, just to be safe. This way you’re covered no matter where you end up applying to college.

It depends on the student. Some students say that prep courses have helped them to understand the amount of time needed to sit and focus on the test, and how to budget their time. Others have felt that private tutoring, although it can be very expensive, works best for individual needs. A motivated student can find practice tests and preparation at many online sites (Khan Academy, for one) for free.  As a public high school, the guidance office at MHS generally avoids recommending one prep company over another.

This depends upon the colleges to which your student is applying and the course of study s/he is interested in pursuing.  In general, it is only the most selective schools in the country that require them, but some schools “recommend” them. We advise that if any of the colleges to which a student is applying require or recommend subject tests, the student should take them.  The subject tests are given on the same dates as the regular SAT. Some colleges will also allow students to submit the ACT in lieu of the SAT subject tests because the ACT covers a few additional subject areas than the regular SAT. The bottom line is the student MUST check the requirements for each college, as they vary widely.

This information is available on Naviance, but an even more reliable source is the college’s own admissions page on their website.

It depends. Many students like to work together with parents to investigate opportunities. Others see it as an independent task. Your student will work with his/her guidance counselor on understanding and using Naviance, so your knowledge is not required.

Princeton Review is great. College Board is another search engine that is easy to use.  There are many other online resources, but some of the information is repetitious. This article lists some other online tools: .

Every university and college has its own application deadlines, but they fall around the same time. Early applicants (early action, early decision or single choice early action) generally need to get their applications in by either November 1 or November 15.  We are seeing an increasing number of schools use an October 15th deadline now, especially large state universities in the southern United States.  The deadline for regular decision applications is normally between January 1 and February 1, depending on the college. (Note: first semester grades senior year will be looked at.)

Early decision plans are binding – a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early Action plans are non binding. Students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date for the college.  Some colleges offer a non binding option called single-choice early action, under which applicants may not apply ED or EA to any other college.

Other than the obvious lack of opportunity to change your mind, students who apply early decision and commit to one school do not have the opportunity to compare financial aid and scholarship offers of schools. Students are encouraged to talk to their guidance counselor about early decision plans.

The Common App is a member organization comprised of more than 800 colleges and universities across 20 countries. Each year, more than 1 million students apply to college through the Common App’s free online application. Although there are some colleges who have their own applications, it is almost certain that some of your student’s applications will be through the Common App. A new application, called the Coalition Application, is also gaining popularity among schools.

Typically a Visual/Performing Arts Portfolio is required and each school will tell you what they want in it (number and type of pieces) how to submit this.  Many schools will have you upload your portfolio to a website like slideroom. It is best to begin gathering pieces for a portfolio as soon as possible. If you want to apply to a conservatory, look at the application requirements early.  Most are not on the Common App, have an early deadline and their requirements (letters of recommendation, auditions etc.) vary widely. Professional recordings are not required but they do help especially if you are applying for voice or a fairly popular instrument.

Every circumstance, and every child, is different when it comes to the level of sports they can participate in.  Knowing the NCAA division your child is athletically and academically suited for is a good place to start. Watching games at several schools can help you determine where your kid fits. The NCAA site is very helpful in finding out which schools are in which Division.  If your child is interested, it is best to reach out directly to the college coach in that sport and start a dialogue in spring of Junior year or sooner. A team fit can be as equally as important for your child as the right university fit. Go watch them play. Participate in summer showcases and inform coaches that you will be at XYZ showcase. The NCAA website provides information regarding the participation of sports in college and parents should be well versed on those requirements. Videos are a must for some sports, as well. Students that think they may participate in NCAA athletics at the Division I or II level will need to register with the NCAA Clearinghouse in fall of senior year, in order to be academically eligible to participate in NCAA sports.

The career interest profiler, found on Family Connection in Naviance, is a detailed list of questions used to help your student determine study and work interests and strengths.  The careers listed are linked to the Occupational Outlook Handbook career profiles maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Reading Co-Operative College Fair is held at Shriners Auditorium typically in October, and MHS shares the date with parents and students as soon as it is confirmed. There are National College Fairs in Boston sponsored by NACAC, usually in the spring.  Those can be found at  Individual colleges, particularly more selective schools, often hold information sessions locally.  The MHS counseling office hosts a “mini-fair” in the fall with about 40 colleges attending. When MHS receives notice about these sessions, they post those on the guidance blog under Guidance and Counseling Department at  There are also virtual college fairs online at College Week Live (

Yes.  Every fall, the Guidance Department hosts 40-60 college admissions representatives from different colleges during the school day to meet with interested juniors and seniors during lunch blocks.  The colleges visit MHS to give presentations and answer questions about their college and admissions information. MHS also hosts a Junior Parent College Night in March where 7-10 college admissions representatives from colleges and universities with varying profiles come to MHS to present to parents and students.

Some schools have students on campus in the summer, particularly schools in the city.  However, some schools are nearly empty in the summer. Although it is good to see the campus in its natural, busy environment, you may want to remove the distraction of “do the kids look like me?” that often happens with high school students.  It really depends on the student. On the other hand, it is important for students to have a realistic idea of what to expect. The MHS February and April school vacation weeks during junior year can be a good time to visit colleges, but if you are planning on booking a tour or meeting with an admissions rep during school vacation week, you need to book those visits in advance.  If you visit the colleges’ own admissions sites online, they will tell you when and how to book a visit.

 Students that take AP tests in May will receive their scores online the 2nd week in July through the College Board website. You can login to your College Board account to review them.

Your student can sign up to send your SAT & ACT scores for free to 4 schools when you are taking the test and for a very brief time immediately after the test.  You can also send the scores for a fee ($12-$15) after you receive the scores. The advantage of signing up to send them when you take the test is the money you will save. The disadvantage is, if your student did not get the score they had hoped for, they cannot take the score back. As long as the scores are submitted by the application deadline, there is no advantage to having the school receive your scores early. If the family can afford to pay the fee to send scores later, we generally recommend waiting until after you receive the scores.  Another reason to wait is that there are many schools that are “test optional” now, and so some students may not want to submit their scores at all. AP scores are often required by the college you are attending by July 15th after senior year to receive college credit for the course, but AP scores are not used in the admissions process.

The counseling office releases transcripts to colleges to which your student has applied. There is a $35 transcript fee per senior, which covers unlimited transcripts.  MHS uses the money to help cover the subscription cost of the Naviance program.  For students who are on the federal free/reduced lunch program, the fee is waived.  Guidance also asks parents to sign a form to release student records to colleges, if the student is under 18 years of age.

Your student can start the Common Application in August before senior year ( Often the MHS counselors will spend time going over the Common Application with students step by step, especially those who may need assistance completing all the sections.  Students may begin working on the college essay at any time, but certainly no later than September of senior year. It may be helpful to begin drafting the essay in spring of junior year.

Your student will work on the college essay in English class of senior year, but it is okay to begin work on it before that time. The 2019/20 essay prompts are here:

The best time to ask for teacher recommendations is in the spring of junior year. Your student should ask those teachers that s/he feels know him/her best, and typically we advise students to focus on core content teachers (English, Math, Science, Social Studies, Global Language).  Students that intend to focus on a particular area of study, or a specialty, may want to ask for a recommendation from a teacher in a related subject (i.e. a student planning to major in engineering should obtain at least one recommendation from a math or science teacher). Colleges are generally interested in two recommendations (and one from guidance).  We also recommend that students have a “backup” teacher in mind, in case one of the teachers they ask is unable to complete it due to the volume of requests, or if a teacher says they don’t feel they can write a positive recommendation.

You can certainly do this but most colleges ask for 2 teacher recommendations and 1 from a guidance counselor. Check with the school to see if outside recommendations would be accepted.

It is the policy of the MHS Counseling Department to not allow students to read their teacher or counselor recommendations until after graduation.  The reason for this is that the Common Application, and every college admissions office in the country, asks high school students to “waive” their right to see their recommendations.  This is so they will receive recommendations that are as unbiased as possible. There is some evidence that students who waive their right to read their recommendations do better in the admissions process.  Therefore, the MHS policy is to not allow students to read their recommendations and they encourage students to waive their right to read them. A quick survey of all the high schools in the Middlesex League showed that every high school surveyed follows this policy.

Yes, your student completes a self-assessment form to give to teachers (and counselor) when asking for a recommendation. S/he should see his or her counselor for the form, and it is also available on the “Resources” tab under Guidance and Counseling Department on the Melrose Schools website (Senior Self Assessment Form).

Anecdotal evidence suggests that college visits are very important.  The primary benefit to the student and family is to see first hand the campus, the facilities, the layout, get a tour, perhaps ask questions, and get a general sense of the environment. Colleges have repeatedly told us they also keep a record of students who visit the campus. How they use that information is not clear, and may vary from college to college, but the consensus is that it can only help.

In recent years, admissions counselors, alumni and parents have hotly debated the value of the college interview. Some claim interviews play little role in the admissions decisions at many schools and ought to be phased out. Others argue the interview can give an applicant a leg up and is very important.  Check the college’s interview policy and discuss this with your guidance counselor, as schools vary widely on whether the interview is “evaluative” or not. Also, many schools use alumni or admissions interns to conduct interviews rather than admissions staff. Very few colleges actually require interviews (some that do include the Ivy League schools), but even those that require them may not use that information for admissions purposes.  It is also important to consider whether you believe your son or daughter would do well in an interview, as there may be some students who may not perform well.

Students are excused from school to visit colleges.  They should provide a note upon their return to school. They are also excused from sports practice and after school activities without penalty.  A general rule is up to three absences in a school year may be excused for college visits, but this is not an official policy. MHS always encourages families to schedule college visits when they will have the least possible impact on a student’s current school work, and the student remains responsible for any work he or she may miss while absent.

Students can check with the counseling office to determine the number of community service hours s/he has completed, or with the attendance secretary  on the first floor of MHS. The community service form is also available in the guidance office.  

No.  As is the current trend in education, MHS does not report class rank as a specific number (e.g., Student is ranked 10th of 250 students in the class).  Research shows that class rank is more detrimental than it is helpful to students both at the high and low end of the academic spectrum. Also, based on the variety of different classes students can take at MHS as part of their course selection, and the varying rigor of these classes, a fair comparison cannot be made of GPA.  Having said that, the counseling office can calculate a class rank when specifically needed for a scholarship application.

Yes. The guidance department provides a school profile which includes information on how GPAs are calculated as well as a histogram of the number of students who fall into specific GPA ranges.  For example, if 10 students have a GPA between 4.5-5.0 and a student with a GPA in this range applied to a college, the college would see that this student is in the range of the top 10 students in the class but would not know specifically where they ranked in that range.


Although the exact date varies each year, the junior prom is typically in April. It is typically held at a local country club.

Yes, students can leave school at the beginning of first lunch block on the day of the prom.  On the morning of prom, students will turn in dismissal notes in the main lobby. Please do not schedule any appointments before dismissal time.  

Students are allowed to take non-MHS and non-juniors to the prom.  All attendees must follow the same code of conduct. Students who do not attend MHS will have to bring a form to their principal that needs to be signed saying they are a student in good standing.  No guest who is age 21 or older will be allowed to attend prom.

Students arrive at the the school and mingle and take group pictures. Many parents go to admire how great students look. Students are called in by bus where the following happens:  1. Check in/attendance 2. Breathalyzer 3. Bag and pocket check 4. Escorted to the red carpet by the advisor in charge of the bus where they are announced and walk the red carpet. 5. Board the bus. This is an excellent photo opportunity. Note – adults/families are not allowed into the building during this time.

If it rains, you will receive an email with specifics from MHS. However, in most cases, students should be dropped off at the Marcoux gym doors at the time designated by MHS. No parking in the gym lot (back lot) as that is where buses need to be so the kids don’t get soaked. The promenade will take place in the MVMMS gym. Well wishers are invited to sit in the bleachers. Prom goers will promenade through the gym and will board the buses from there.

All students are required to take the buses to and from the prom and will not be admitted to the venue if they do not take the bus.

It depends on where the prom is being held and how long it takes for the buses to return to Melrose High.  A better estimate will be given prior to the prom. MHS kindly asks that you/your child’s ride are waiting at school at that time as our staff members are not dismissed until all students have been picked up.

Yes! It is not uncommon for students to attend without dates.

Yes! You must pay all class dues before you can purchase prom tickets. Your student should see the class president or class advisor for current status.

Understanding the Senior Photo Process

Initial Clarification: Jostens creates the school yearbook. Prestige Lifetouch takes the senior photographs for the school yearbook. Prestige Lifetouch is occasionally referred to as “Prestige” and other times as “Lifetouch.”

Your student will receive an appointment postcard from Prestige in the spring. Although it is not required for you to keep this appointment, it is the most efficient way to complete the task. If this date doesn’t work for you, you can call Prestige to book another appointment. .

If your student would like a senior profile picture in the school yearbook, the picture must be taken at Prestige.

There is a basic sitting fee of $30. If you decide not to purchase the photos and simply want the picture for the yearbook, you can return the proofs to Prestige for a sitting fee refund. Return the proofs to the Melrose office (99 Washington Street) and indicate verbally or with an attached note that you want to be refunded for the sitting fee. Within several weeks, you will receive a check or your credit card will be refunded. Note: If the sitting fee presents a financial hardship, contact Prestige Lifetouch directly and it will be waived.

Seniors have the opportunity to choose their own photo for the yearbook via the Prestige Lifetouch website. Students are given an account on the Prestige Lifetouch portal, and they can choose their picture from there. Sometimes the photographer will let them choose the photo immediately upon taking it (at the Prestige location). If a student cannot figure out how to make a selection via the Prestige Lifetouch portal, call Prestige for assistance.  The photo must be a vertical pose in color of your upper torso only (no hands) with a traditional background (no walls, no curtains, no pillars, no props, no hats, etc.). Students are NOT allowed to submit senior photos that are: horizontal, black and white, with props, with hats, or with hands.  The yearbook staff reserves the right to review all photos and make changes if criteria are not met.

Please note:  Prestige will choose a photo that becomes the default photo if not changed by the deadline indicated on the Prestige postcard.

There is no dress requirement for senior photos. However, most students dress nicely. Some boys wear suits, some a tie, and others a collared shirt. Students can bring several outfit changes. Although some choose to take a photo with a cap and gown for their own memory, cap and gown pictures are not the pose seniors choose to put in the yearbook.  T-shirts with graphics and/or words are NOT allowed.

Yearbooks go on sale in October.  Go to and follow the steps to make a purchase.

There are four choices for senior recognition ads/parent messages: ⅛ page, ¼ page, ½ page and full page. Refer to for information on purchasing senior recognition ads.

The yearbook editors (students) will typically issue information to students about how to submit candids (both electronically and printed) to the yearbook. Photos can be submitted starting at the end of junior year.  

Yes, a baby photo of the student is included.  Photos can be submitted electronically or in print form.  More details about how and when to submit photos will follow in the senior yearbook packet that is handed out at the beginning of senior year.

At the beginning of senior year, seniors receive a packet from the yearbook staff asking for a baby picture, a yearbook profile (includes a quote and senior memories), and various other yearbook information. The deadline for completion of the packet is typically toward the end of September.

At this time, all MHS students are included in the yearbook. Individual photos of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors (including some candids) are included in the yearbook. In addition, there is usually a section for siblings, where each senior poses with siblings who attend MHS. The yearbook staff arranges sibling photos during the school day. Note: This section is not a permanent component to the yearbook; it varies from year to year. However, families are welcome to submit photos for this as well. Editors try to supplement pictures, but a home photo of choice is always a nice addition.

Although each year’s yearbook varies, there is typically a section titled Now and Then.  This section includes a submitted group photo from when students were young along with a current recreated pose. This section is very popular and photographs are used as space allows.

Note: Candids can be submitted through  Students and families can upload pictures for possible submission in the yearbook. The yearbook staff welcomes and appreciates all photos, especially sports and special events.

The entire yearbook is in color.

Yes, seniors take a school picture for student IDs and for use in Aspen. The school pictures are also available for purchase on picture day.