5 Tips for the College Bound High School Student

Image from Sakeeb Sabakka/fotopedia.com

Image from Sakeeb Sabakka/fotopedia.com

August is almost here. Back to school deals are popping up in stores, summer projects have hopefully started and college visits are being planned. Here is some advice based on personal experience (as well as some of my friend’s experiences) on how to use your time in high school to prepare for college.

1. Study for the ACT/SAT. This may seem like common sense, but with busy activities like planning for the big dance, or studying for a science test, it is easy to forget. Not only do these tests help you get into college, they can also help you win scholarships. There are many study books for the ACT and SAT; some focus on particular subjects–such as math or reading–and others cover the whole test. These books contain test taking strategies and practice questions, and sometimes even full practice tests. You can also use online resources such as the  ACT or SAT Question of the Day, or sign up for a local ACT or SAT prep class.


2. Consider your class choices. Are you going to be overwhelmed with all AP classes?  Are you going to be bored and with basic classes? Consider your class choices carefully. Some people enjoy the challenge of AP and Honors courses. Others want to avoid getting burnt out from taking difficult courses in high school. I once heard that a good idea is to take an AP or Honors class in your best subject, and to focus on easier classes for the rest of your subjects.

Take into consideration what you may want to study in college. I’ve learned from experience that if your high school offers a class directly related to your possible career goals, it’s best to save it for senior year. Taking a class you’re interested in will help with senioritis and prepare you for your college coursework.

Your teachers from the previous year are great people to ask for advice on what classes to take. They know your strengths and weaknesses.  Still, you don’t always have to take their advice as fact. They may not know your exact educational and career goals, or other factors, such as your schedule this coming year and how much time you’ll have to devote to each class.


3. Focus on academics. It may seem really tempting to become the president of every club on campus in order to put it on your college application. In reality, a lot of the schools that my friends and I applied to seemed to use extracurriculars as “tie breakers.” Higher emphasis is generally placed on GPA and ACT/SAT scores.

One of the schools that I applied to didn’t even want to know about my high school extracurriculars! Submitting them was optional for most of the other schools that I was interested in. Academics come first.  With that being said, not all colleges are alike. Some may place a higher emphasis on extracurriculars than others. Extra curriculars can add a lot to your application, or even provide scholarships in some cases. Still, they should never take priority over your academics if you want to get into a good college. With that being said…

4. Get more involved in clubs you care about. From honor societies to leadership opportunities in other organizations, a lot more doors  seem to open for you once you’re a junior.   Admissions counselors are usually able to tell when you join clubs just to impress them. Extra-curriculars are an opportunity to show your true interests. Instead of suddenly joining four random honor societies, I became the vice president of Campus Life senior year. I had been involved in that organization since freshman year. I also became very active in my school’s anti-bullying club, and was able to share in a scholarship interview about being bullied in middle school and wanting to be an advocate for the cause. Not only will joining clubs you care about help you get into your dream college, they will also  will help you to enjoy the experience. Why waste time on dozens of clubs you don’t care about?


5. Begin looking at colleges to visit, and to apply. Slowly begin to get acquainted with the admissions process. Start visiting schools, and thinking about what you’re looking for in a college.  Admissions counselors usually have a certain number of spaces to fill for its freshman class. If you look up the acceptance rate for your college, many times you will find that it is lower for regular decision that it is for early action. Even with rolling admissions, applying early gives you the chance to make an impression on the admissions counselors before hundreds of other students apply. I applied to my first college the spring of my junior year! (Note:That is not an option at all colleges.) By the end of the application season, those admissions counselors will have seen it all before. Also, once you get your college applications done, you will have more time to focus on your school work,stay involved in school clubs, and create lasting memories with your friends your senior year!
Preparing for college doesn’t have to be a stressful process. Millions of students have done it before. All you need to do is be yourself, and show colleges what makes you qualified. Before you know it, you’ll be in the car on the way to the school of your dreams!

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