This document was last updated in June 2019.

Sophomore year is a nice settling-in time, when your student is no longer a beginner and not yet an upperclassman. In the fall of junior year, however, things start to heat up. 

Use these FAQs as you prepare for the fall of junior year. You’ll learn about the spring of junior year in the FAQs for junior parents.  

This section includes: 

The Summer Before Junior Year

The summer before junior year is a perfect time to do your dry run. Lucky for us, there are many colleges in the Boston area so there is no need to go far. You can start with just a driving tour and look at a big college, a small college, a city college, a country college. Make it fun! Stop for lunch and talk about what you both liked and didn’t like. This will help you start to prune down the list of many possibilities.

There is a new trend with college applications and more and more students are applying early action (non binding) or early decision (binding) which is typically October 1st of senior year. Regular decision is typically January 1st of senior year. At MHS, over 50% of college applications from the class of 2019 were submitted early. Because of this, looking at colleges during junior year is particularly important.

The college essay is a way for admission officers to see another side of your student. Your student’s senior year English teacher will work with him/her on the essay. However, you can start discussing it with your student now. The current essay prompts will probably not change significantly in the next several years. A fun exercise is to simply read the prompts and talk about how you would answer. When was the last time you challenged a belief or idea, after all?  Find sample essay prompts here:

The reading assigned by your student’s junior year English teacher is an excellent conversation starter with your older teenager. We encourage parents to read the books assigned to their students and talk about likes, dislikes, and things learned.

Get Involved

GPA and standardized testing scores are often the top two ways many colleges evaluate students. The college essay is another strong indicator of acceptance. In addition, colleges are interested in students who are challenging themselves academically and interested in exploring activities outside of the school day. Participation on sports teams, in drama groups, in school clubs and other community organizations (including after school jobs) is a good idea for a college application and it helps peak student interest into the types of disciplines in which they might excel. Now is the time to try what interests your student!

National Honor Society is just one organization that your student can list on a college application. If this organization is not right for your student, there are many other ways to show interest in activities and clubs.

National Honor Society applications were distributed in early spring of sophomore year. If your student did not have the opportunity to apply this year, s/he can apply in the spring of junior year. Many students are in the National Honor Society just in their senior year. If your student is interested in being a member, now is the time to start working on grades, community service hours, recommendations, and the essay. Be as proactive as possible! For an application, see Mr. Merrill.

ACT, SAT, ACKKK! What’s it all about?

All MHS sophomores take the PSAT in the fall, so, in fact, you’ve already begun! The typical path from this point forward is to take the PSAT again in the fall of junior year and then the SAT and ACT in the spring of junior year. In many cases, students elect to then take either the SAT or ACT (or both) again in the fall of senior year.

Yes. The MHS guidance department will administer the PSAT for all juniors in the fall of junior year. This test offers a very early indicator of how they may do on the SAT test. There is a fee of $25 for juniors to take the PSAT (there is no fee for sophomores).

The PSAT isn’t used for college admissions, but high scores can earn you scholarship dollars, including a National Merit Scholarship. Your PSAT scores are also a good predictor for how you may score on the SAT, which will be very important for college admissions and scholarships.This is a good overview of the PSAT scores:

Upon completion of the PSAT in junior year, your student is entered in the National Merit Scholarship program. Of the 1.6 million entrants, some 50,000 with the highest PSAT Selection Index scores (calculated by doubling the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores) qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. In September of senior year, these high scorers are notified through their schools that they have qualified as either a Commended Student or Semifinalist. For more information:

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 take either test, and will use the highest scores for admissions purposes. As always, students should consult with their counselor before registering.

Although not currently offered at MHS, you can read more about the new pre-ACT test here:

The official SAT website is The official ACT website is: Both of these sites will allow you to create an account to register for the test, check scores and send these scores to colleges if and when you choose to. Testing locations can fill up so as soon as you know the date your student wants to take the test, register for it so he/she gets a seat at the location of his/her choice. If you sign up late, you may need to travel to another high school to take the test.

Testing dates and other useful material for parents of juniors can be found in the Guidance Services resource section of the Melrose Schools website, here:

MHS Guidance provides the dates via email to students. Students create an online account at College Board and/or ACT, and register for the exams online.

Preparing for SATs and ACTs is a good idea and generally can improve a student’s score. As a public high school, the guidance office at MHS generally avoids recommending one prep company over another.

Test Prep methods focus on content, familiarity with types of questions, and test time management skills. Online and hardcopy practice tests, online resources, group classes and private tutoring are some of the options available and each varies in cost. Determining which one is best for your student depends on schedule, self discipline, and goals.

In most cases, it is not a good idea to simultaneously study for the ACT and the SAT. Instead, preparing and practicing for one should help improve both scores.

Khan Academy and The College Board has created a partnership for free online test preparation for the SAT. You can find more info here: .

Many students take the appropriate test preparation between the PSAT and the SAT, so the winter of junior year. However, because of individual student schedules, others choose to do prep work in the summer or on weekends.

SAT Subject Tests are college admission tests on specific subjects. In general, it is only the most selective schools in the country that require them, but some schools recommend them. If your student has already decided upon colleges to which s/he will apply, s/he should discuss SAT subject tests with guidance. In most cases, this discussion can wait until spring of junior year.

AP Classes and Tests

 The summer work varies by class and is assigned in June before summer recess. It is important to complete summer work as it will ensure your student is ready for class work in September (this is a college level class, after all!). Often, summer work is the first grade your student will receive in the AP class.

You student can choose to transfer out of the class in September if s/he feels it is not the right fit. In addition, if at the end of the year, your student decides not to take the AP test, the class is counted as an Honors class instead of an AP class and is weighted differently as part of their weighted GPA.

To give students additional preparation for AP tests, most MHS teachers hold one study session plus a mock exam for each content area on select Saturdays, prior to the AP exam. Every effort is made to minimize conflicts, however, with students participating in a wide variety of activities, it is nearly impossible to meet all scheduling requirements. There is a possibility that mock AP exams will also be given on Wednesday half-days as well. All Saturday schedules will be distributed to parents and students via email. Please keep in mind that the absolute best preparation for the AP test is to attend class regularly and complete homework and assignments. The Saturday Sessions are simply a bonus.

AP exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. A score of 5, meaning the student is extremely well qualified to receive college credit for that course, is the highest score. A score of 4 means the student is well qualified and a score of 3 indicates that the student is qualified. Many colleges and universities grant credit and placement for scores of 3, 4 or 5; however, each college decides which scores it will accept and some colleges only accept 4s or 5s for credit. This varies by college and is a good question to ask during a college tour.

 All AP scores are self reported to colleges after your student is admitted. AP scores are not part of the admittance process.

Yes, there is a fee. This year the regular fee for most exams was $94 for the 2019-20 school year.  There are two Economics exams, one for Microeconomics and one for Macroeconomics, therefore, you pay for each one individually.  AP Research and AP Seminar were each $142. MHS used the e-School payment program for the first time this year to collect AP exam fees but check payments are accepted in the guidance office as well. MHS will send an email in the fall with information about collecting fees.

Your student meets with his/her guidance counselor as frequently as requested. Guidance counselors are very involved with students in the fall of senior year, when the college application process starts heating up, and will seek out students for appointments at that time. However, if you or your student wants to check in with guidance in the fall of junior year, to review class selections or to get a jump on college planning, you are definitely welcome to email or call to set up an appointment. Parents are welcome to meet with the guidance counselor separately or together with the student.

If you are unsure of your student’s guidance counselor, contact MHS Guidance.

Naviance is a comprehensive college and career readiness solution that helps align student strengths and interests with postsecondary goals, improving student outcomes and connecting learning to life.

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.

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.

Guidance Counselors introduce the Naviance program to sophomores in their English classes in late April-early May. All sophomores take a career interest profile in order to identify and learn more about potential careers that may suit their interests and aptitudes.  

Besides the career interest survey, it is also good for students to become familiar with the college search tool. Parameters can be set on several different criteria including size of school, proximity to a city or suburb, distance from home, typical test scores of admitted students etc. to begin to identify a list of schools they may want to learn more about and meet with if and when these schools visit MHS.

Counselors can access students’ accounts and passwords if students forget it.

Researching College Choices

Besides visiting colleges, there are many ways to get an understanding of what is out there. 

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:

The Reading Co-operative College Fair is held at Shriner’s Auditorium typically in October. There are National College Fairs sponsored by NACAC, usually in the spring. Those can be found at Individual colleges, particularly more selective schools, often hold information sessions locally. When we receive notice about these sessions, we post those on the guidance blog under Guidance and Counseling Department at There are also virtual college fairs online at College Week Live (

In the fall, roughly 40 admissions counselors attend the MHS college fair – including military recruiters.  The fair is held in the LC, and both juniors and seniors attend. We typically have juniors and seniors come down the two blocks after lunch.  Juniors come down during one block, and seniors during the other. Students are free to visit tables at their own pace and talk to admissions counselors, ask questions, collect brochures, sign up to receive additional information, etc.  The admissions reps do not do any formal presenting. MHS also hosts a Junior Parent College Night in March where 8-10 college admissions representatives from colleges and universities with varying profiles come to MHS to present to parents and students.

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. We always encourage families to schedule college visits when they will have the least possible impact on a student’s current school work.

Demonstrated interest is the degree to which you show a college that you are sincerely interested in coming to their school. How colleges actually use the quantified data about your level of interest varies significantly from college to college. Not all colleges incorporate this type of information into their admission decision-making process. However, for schools that do use this as a consideration, things that can help demonstrate interest are: making an official campus visit through the admission office, attending a college fair or an admission presentation when they attend MHS and consider applying early. If your student is very interested in a specific college, it is best that they demonstrate this interest in an authentic way.

Even if you have a friend or relative at a school that you visit who is willing to give you a tour, we highly recommended that you attend the college’s prospective student information session and take the guided tour.

Odds and Ends

Class dues are used for class events; especially Senior Week. They are paid each year to student government. If students forget to pay dues, they are asked to “settle up” before purchasing prom tickets. Without class dues, Senior Week and proms would be much more expensive. For example, this years’ seniors are paying only $85 for Canobie Lake (and bus), yearbook lunch, Prom (and bus), and Melrose Grad Night.

Check with the sophomore class advisors. If your student is not sure of the class advisors, contact Mr. Merrill to find out.