If you are a rising sophomore in high school, college can seem like it is either ages away or just around the corner. Even if you do not feel ready to pick your school or major, there are things you can be doing to make yourself stand out when you apply to universities as a junior or senior. Check out our Prepare Yourself for College Checklist below and start getting college ready today!
1. Start thinking about testing.
SAT, ACT, CLAT, PSAT—you probably feel like there are too many tests and not enough time. But if you start prepping early, you can approach whichever test or tests you take with confidence and score high enough to have a range of colleges to choose from once you graduate. Many college admissions counselors recommend starting to study for standardized tests during sophomore year, and if possible, taking the SAT or ACT so that you have the option of retaking them later on.
Consider studying with online resources like Khan Academy or talking to your parents about a tutoring service like Kaplan Test Prep. Figure out which test plays to your strengths and focus on it. You will be glad when, as a junior or senior, colleges recognize your hard work with merit scholarships.
Even if you want to pursue a major based in the language arts, do not push off studying for the math portions of the test or vice versa. You want your score to be as high as possible in every category.
2. Invest in extracurricular activities you love.
When you are writing your college applications as an upperclassmen, the extracurriculars you participate in help you to stand out to college admissions counselors. Grades are important, but accomplishing your goals in the non-academic arena can be just as impressive.
Think about what you love, and find a way to do it. Theater, music, horseback riding, event planning—any activity you can name, your community probably has a group you can join. Participating in extracurricular activities will grow you, introduce you to new people, and let colleges know what you are all about.
3. Strengthen your writing skills.
You have heard that writing is a skill needed in every profession, right? Well, that adage may not be 100 percent true, but being a good writer is a sure way to get a college admissions counselor’s attention -- and prepare you for success in college and beyond. Talk to your teachers about how you can improve your writing and make sure to start all of your assignments with plenty of time to outline, compose a draft, edit, and proofread.
However, while class assignments are helpful, they are not always enough on their own to turn a student into an outstanding writer. Consider a writing mentorship program like the one found here. Having one-on-one tutoring is invaluable to help you improve your writing’s style, clarity, and structure.
4. Visit colleges. Lots of colleges.
The earlier you start visiting colleges and learning what you desire in a campus, the better. Plan on starting to visit colleges your sophomore year and continuing until you are a senior. While you are an underclassmen, you can plan structured visits with your family to colleges that interest you. Later on, you may want more organic visits that let you spend the night at the colleges you are considering.
For now, coordinate schedules with your parents to visit a couple colleges your sophomore year. Go armed with a notepad, pen, and lots of questions. You do not have to figure out exactly what you want in a college yet, but it is important for you to start thinking about what size college you are looking for, what kind of amenities you want access to, and how far from home you are willing to travel.
5. Keep a book list.
You may not have heard of this tip before, but it is definitely worth your time! Some colleges, like Patrick Henry College, require a book list as part of your application. You will thank yourself if you have kept track of your reading and have no trouble filling out the list. Book lists can be an important supplement to colleges. Do not feel like you have to start with the hardest, most scholastic selection you can find. Just start with a book that looks interesting to you.
Did you find this list helpful? Let us know in the comments below.