Summer is quickly coming to an end for many students, school is lurking right around the corner. And for you high school students it means really thinking about where you want to go to college. Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned high school student or you’re just starting out, this post will take you through the ins and outs of how to start prepping for your freshman year of college in high school.
Keep Your Grades Up
You start building your GPA from day one of high school. And this GPA will end up ultimately being a huge factor into which colleges you should apply for and which colleges will actually accept you. So stay on top of your assignments and don’t play around with your grades. If you’re having a hard time, reach out to a teacher or a tutor or another friend who understands the material.
Take Challenging Courses
Take classes that you personally feel challenged in and that will impress colleges. This means taking Honors and AP courses. The general rule is: It’s better to have a B in an Honors/AP course than an A in a regular course. If your school doesn’t offer very many AP classes, take as many Honors courses as you can within reason. If your school does offer a variety of AP courses, take those that interest you and that you think you would do well in.
AP courses are especially helpful because 10 extra points are added to your score at the end of each semester and the score with the added 10 points is what is factored into your GPA. Let’s take AP Chemistry for an example. If you get an 88 as your final grade, 10 extra points are added, which raises your grade from 88 to 98. Now the 98, an A, is what is factored into your GPA which may just raise your GPA a smidge higher. And a higher GPA = better college opportunities
Take the SAT or ACT
I recommend taking both tests prior to your junior year so that you get a feel for both. Once you’ve done that, determine which test you preferred to take and which got you a better score. Study for that specific test before taking it again towards the end of your junior year. To properly study for either test, find a tutor or use an SAT/ACT prep book. You want to take these tests seriously because, just like your GPA, your scores will determine which schools to apply for.
Apply for Scholarship
A lot of people aren’t aware of this but you can start applying for scholarship as early as your freshman year. It’s unfortunate yet fortunate that people don’t know this little fact. Because there’s less competition surrounding scholarships for freshmen, you’re more likely to be awarded a whole host of “free money”.
But if you’re not applying for scholarship in your freshman or sophomore year, then you definitely must start by your junior year. Again, there’s a lot less competition for scholarships as a junior which means more money for you. My favorite site to search for scholarships is Unigo but there are a whole host of places to search for scholarships.
Decide Where to Apply
A number of students have a dream college already picked out. But often times this dream college isn’t a realistic goal based on grades, GPA, extracurricular activities, or other factors. So how do you stay realistic? Compare your accomplishments (clubs, leadership opportunities, etc.) and numbers (GPA, SAT/Act, and AP scores) to those of the various universities that you want to apply to. Also, compare whether your own personal factors- such as size, location, or clubs- when deciding what colleges to apply for.
You can also get a feel for a college by going for a visit. Depending on when you visit, you can get a feel of the campus and the general environment or just a look at how big or small the campus and its surrounding area is. I wish I had toured all of the campuses that I applied to, I think my answer may have been different if I had. Seriously, tour the campus.
I recommend applying to your dream school, a realistic school, and a safe school. Assuming that you are in good academic standing, you should apply early action to at least one of them. BUT, you must check to make sure that it’s a non-binding early action. Otherwise, you may end up having to go to a school where you won’t end up with as much financial aid.
Make sure to keep track of all of the deadlines. You do not want to wait until the last minute- I’ve seen so many people do it and they often don’t get accepted because they were rushing to finish. Don’t wait until the last minute to start working on your applications.