Your junior year is by far the most stressful of your high school career. Your class load is the most demanding, you have your SATs, AP exams, and on top of it all, you really have to research and narrow down the list of colleges to which you would like to apply. Here are 5 college planning tips for high school juniors.

  1. Make a budget.

Before you can start narrowing schools down, you have to know which ones are available within your budget. Once you’ve filled out the FAFSA and know exactly how much student aid you qualify for, you will want to also look into scholarships and grants to make up the gap between what you can afford to pay annually and what tuition, room and board fees will total. Only then will you know which schools will be in and out of your budget. Make sure to include the basics such as food, transport, traveling home for the holidays and all other major yearly expenses.

  1. Do your research.

Whether you are looking into schools that are very well known, like Brown University, or those which are not as well known, like Villanova University, you’ll want to research the specific programs that you want to focus on for your chosen major. If you don’t know what you want to major in just yet, it’s important that you get an idea of the school’s reputation for either the arts, sciences, business, etc. You don’t have to define your major too closely just yet, but you should have an idea of the general department.

  1. Consider class size.

In addition to having an idea of what you might want to major in, you should think about how large or small you prefer your school to be. If you prefer to go to a large school with all kinds of Greek life, clubs, and sports teams, then it’s important that you rule out all of the small schools. However, if you want to have smaller classes and more personal relationships with your professors and department chairs, then you may want to rule out all of the larger schools.

  1. Determine desirable locations.

In the end, your college experience is not just about the campus where you’ll be taking your classes, but it’s also all about the city or the town where you’ll be living. Some people like going to a college where there’s not much else to do so that they can really focus on their studies. Although, other people may feel like they need the inspiration of a bright, vibrant city to keep them excited about their college career. You also want to think about the distance from home and how that will affect your relationships with friends and family, as well as the travel expenses.

  1. Plan a visit.

Once you have narrowed down your list of schools to a few really promising ones, it’s time to go on a campus visit. Some colleges may look really great when you see photos online, but you never really know how much you’ll enjoy any given school until you’re on the campus and you can get a feel for the collegiate life you are about to lead.