Ever wonder if your high school counselors are leading you down the right path? Don't know a college student well enough to ask? Look no further! Here is a complete guide to what you should be focusing on in High School to get into your dream college!
Before Freshman Year
Look at the high school class schedule when it releases, and keep a watchful eye for beginner classes in different fields. For example, there will be classes like “Introduction to Health Science” or “Introduction to Business” that don’t sound important, until you realize your sophomore year that they were a prerequisite to a field-specific class you wanted to take.
Keep a mental note. Usually, the field-specific classes start Freshman year and will take you down the route of your choice! You can always switch out your Sophomore year if you change your mind, but these classes are vital if you’re looking for a certain major in college. Especially for the people applying to competitive schools, having a one-track major specific cluster of classes in high school can be the difference between you and a person who has a 0.1 GPA higher than yours.
Start thinking about what you’re interested or good at!
If you think you can handle Pre-AP classes, take them! It looks great to colleges that you stepped up from the beginning in taking upper-level classes.
Start keeping track of all of the volunteering and events you attend that would look good on a resume. This will be perfect to look back on as a reference when you start needing a resume around junior year for jobs and college admission.
If you’re taking the Pre-AP classes you signed up for before you came, and you’re floundering, then you have two very good options! Analyze why you are having trouble first. If your teacher is not very good, and you don’t feel like you’re retaining any information, then maybe it would be best to switch. If you are struggling because you haven’t done a lot of the homework, and you know there’s a little extra effort you could be putting in, then try to stick it out and go the extra mile! Learning this skill now is vital in not only your high school career but your college career as well.
Get involved with one or two organizations. They don’t have to be super time consuming, but colleges love seeing that you’ve been involved in an organization for your entire high school career! It shows a lot of driven potential!
Start volunteering, especially if it’s through the organizations you join!
Join something extra-curricular! Whether that be sports, drill team, choir, band, orchestra, theatre, etc.! Again, colleges look for holistic involvement. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to stick with it, but it’s good to find your niche!
Learn how to study now! Everyone has a different preferred study style, and the faster you learn yours the better!
Work hard to achieve good grades, this is the MOST important year for your GPA. It will set your GPA for the rest of your high school career. Most people only deviate a couple of points from their Freshman year GPA!
This is when AP classes usually begin. I HIGHLY suggest taking at least one or two AP classes throughout your high school career, if not more. AP classes are like your typical college level courses, but they last a full year, and you have to take a test at the end to gain credit. It’s better to get a B in this class than get an A in a core class!
Start looking for leadership opportunities! This is when that organization you joined Freshman year starts to come in handy!
Start looking at what upper division courses you want to take! There are a lot of great opportunities in the health field, business, and even criminal justice that could set you apart during college admission time, and give you a better idea of what you want to do!
This is the year where you are given more options class wise. Most schools offer three types of classes at this point, Regular/Core, AP, and Community College Dual Classes. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
Regular/Core Classes. If you work hard and get your work done in these classes, it’s not terribly difficult to achieve an A! These are great classes to take if you are needing a GPA booster. BUT, colleges tend to look for students that challenge themselves, so try to get a few AP or Dual Credit classes in there!
AP Classes. These are great because they show colleges that you are taking the most difficult classes offered! They do tend to be hard, though, and you are more likely to get lower grades and have much more work. These can hurt your GPA, so just be aware of how much you think you can handle while juggling your other activities and clubs!
Community College Dual Credit Classes- These are in my opinion one of the best options because you can intermingle these with some AP classes. Through dual credit, you are saving your parents money and just taking some basic college classes in high school, and they almost always transfer over. A major con is that it’s the luck of the draw for what teacher you get. Some teachers will be great, and others you may not be able to understand. Tests may be really hard or really easy. This route is a gamble, but in the event that you are drowning, you can always drop them and take a regular course. Another con is that if you are trying to get into a top college, they are going to look for more AP than Dual Credit, which is why I suggest taking a bit of both.
Try to gain some leadership this year through your school organizations or outside organizations. Leadership is a vital to have on your resume, as it shows colleges that you have what it takes to be a leader at their institution and beyond. Colleges are looking for students that have the drive to be successful in life.
Start visiting colleges. This is the year that you start to plan where you want to apply! Take advantage of your college visit days.
Start thinking about your college applications. It seems far away, but believe me, application time jumps up on you extremely quickly. Begin asking for recommendation letters from teachers!
You’re almost there! Don’t let it get to your head, though, STAY MOTIVATED! Colleges are going to be keeping an eye on you, and this is good practice for the hectic nature of your freshman year of college.
Apply to colleges early. It’s better to get everything out of the way now than be stressed about it when the deadlines start to sneak up on you.
Start looking for dorm supplies and planning! Personally, I used Pinterest to design my living space!
Apply to LOTS of scholarships! Ask around, look on different apps, ask your teachers, counselors, anyone that would know anything about organizations inside or outside of your town that offer scholarships for students! The more you apply for, the more likely you are to get them!
Make sure you stay on top of deadlines! This is the year of deadlines, so make sure you keep track of when and what is due!
Finally, all of your hard work has paid off, and you are off to college! There will be a lot of tears from mom and some craziness in between the senior year and freshman year of college, but it will all be worth it!