The college selection process is an exciting time. But for many students, the process of preparing for college can also be daunting and frustrating. Here are 10 things high school students can be doing right now to prepare to make that next big leap in their educational journey.
Unless you’re going to an open admissions school like a community college, grades are going to play an important role in the colleges you get into. That’s why you need to make your grades a priority the minute you walk into high school for the first time. Many freshman students slack off their first year in high school and regret it later. Don’t let this be you.
Look into taking AP classes in addition to regular courses. These classes can give you college credit while potentially boosting your GPA above a 4.0, which looks great to most colleges. You might also consider attending one of the charter academy programs that has a career path so that many of your classes will prepare you for that career even before you go to college.
Aside from GPA, this is going to be the second biggest factor to help determine which colleges you get into. During sophomore year, take the PSAT or a practice ACT test.
Studies show that the more you practice these standardized tests, the better you get at them. Look into organizations that have practice sessions for both the ACT and SAT. In the end, this will ensure you score your absolute best on whichever test you plan to take.
Extracurriculars show colleges that you were involved in your community in high school. Whether it’s National Honor Society or playing multiple sports, making an effort to participate in clubs and leadership opportunities. If you happen to get a leadership position in one of these clubs, even better! These extracurriculars will not only create fun high school memories, but they’ll also beef up your college application.
You might be surprised to learn how many scholarship options are out there. And if you have good grades and a solid SAT/ACT score, you’ll qualify for many of these opportunities. Apply to as many scholarships as possible.
Look into grants, too. Sometimes, students can actually fully fund their college education by qualifying for large grants. The more financial aid you get, the lower your debt burden will be in the future.
Start looking into schools that fit your major. If you want to be an engineer, research schools with good engineering programs. Likewise, if you’re planning to study medicine or agriculture, find colleges that are well-known for those degrees. Include both top schools and safety schools on your list.
A high school job is a great option to tuck away some extra money. But don’t just choose any job. Look for a position that will complement your resume. For example, if you’d like to study early childhood education, get a job at a daycare. Or if you plan to become a journalist, see if a local publication could use some help. This is a smart way to make your resume look relevant as you apply for your major.
Volunteering makes your resume look good and strengthens your college application. Your volunteering experience can be anything that you’re interested in and passionate about. Whether it’s spearheading a food drive or helping out a local hospital, it all looks good to colleges.
By going on campus tours, you’ll find out if the school you’re looking to attend is right for you. The school might look good on the internet, but you can’t truly gauge whether it’s the right school for you unless you experience the culture of the school in person.
Don’t pick a school for your parents, for your friends or just to look good. Pick a school that’s going to be the best choice for your future goals and aspirations. Too many people mess up by going to a specific school in an attempt to please their parents. Don’t do that. Pick the college where you truly want to study.
This final step is perhaps the most important one. In the end, you have to make sure you’re making a financially sound move. Don’t go tens of thousands into debt for a degree that isn’t going to pay off. Make sure you can afford the school, and look into the job prospects of your desired career to make sure you’re making the right move.
You’ve learned what you need to do. Now it’s time to go out and do it. College websites with resources for high school students can help. Third-party websites like CollegeData provide tons of free information and tools that are broadly applicable. Use these resources to feel more prepared for college.