College Countdown Part I4 min read

Many high school students only start thinking about applying to college when they start senior year, and only then do they discover how much they have to do: they have applications to fill out, essays to write, standardized tests to take, and recommendations to ask for, plus they have to keep up with their grades and extracurricular activities. The process of applying to college can be overwhelming, but with a little planning it is much more manageable. All you need is a helpful guide that lays out what you should do and when. Guess what? You’ve come to the right place.

25070401Let’s begin at the beginning. Freshman year might seem too early to start thinking about college, but in reality, it’s exactly when you need to start if you want to gain an edge on the competition. Freshman year you should start planning out what courses you are going to take for the rest of high school. It’s okay if you aren’t 100% sure, but if you start planning now you will be able to see what sorts of potential problems or conflicts could come up and learn how to avoid them. You might even come up with a few different plans so you have options no matter how things pan out.

The most important advice I can give you with regard to freshman and sophomore years is study, study, study! Freshman and sophomore grades count just as much as junior and senior grades when calculating your GPA, so don’t slack off! Many times, students don’t realize what grades they need to get into their dream schools until junior year, and by then it could be too late if they didn’t take freshman and sophomore classes seriously. If possible you might try to take an AP class or two during either freshman or sophomore year, since this way you can get a feel for what they are like while only taking one at a time. If you do take an AP or IB class your sophomore year, you might also want to take the corresponding SAT II Subject Test at the end of the year while the material is still fresh in your mind, especially if you are planning to apply to more selective colleges.

You might also want to start studying for the PSAT. While the PSAT only counts when you take it your junior year, many schools give sophomores a chance to take it so that they can practice. If this is the case at your school, you should definitely take advantage of this opportunity so you can figure out how much work you have to do to get the score you want the next time you take it.

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Learn more about the PSAT and National Merit here!

Freshman year is also the perfect time to try out lots of extracurricular activities. You only need two or three that you do for all four years of high school, but you may not know which ones most interest you yet. Try out a bunch and stick with a few of your favorites and drop the rest as needed. Remember, NEVER sacrifice grades for extracurriculars! At the end of the year, you might even run for a lower level leadership position in your favorite club. This can prepare you for higher level leadership positions in your junior and/or senior years.

Learn how to improve your college application with extracurricular activities!

When your freshman and sophomore summers roll around, don’t waste them by playing video games or lounging by the pool all day! Summers are for extracurricular resume building. Volunteer, do a summer camp for your favorite extracurricular activity, or get a job or internship. Summer is a great time to devote to these kinds of things because you don’t have to worry about your regular school work. Also, the summer after sophomore year is a great time to start preparing for the PSAT that you will take your junior year, especially if you took a practice one and want to improve your score.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer Vacation

To find out what to do during your junior and senior years, check back here next week! Until then, keep up the good work, and good luck!

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