8 Ways High School Students Can Prepare for College NOW

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While college preparation is critical in your junior and senior year, you should be utilizing all four years of high school to prepare for college. You’d be surprised how fast the time to apply for college comes up! Get a head start now and set yourself up for success come graduation with the following tips.


  1. Start Looking for Colleges As Soon As Possible

You can begin researching your colleges as early as your freshman year in high school, but by your senior year you should have narrowed down a list of schools you’d like to apply to. Aim for a list of 6-12 schools. When searching for colleges, remember that the “best” school for you, doesn’t mean the school that’s most “selective.” You want to choose a college where you will thrive best, both academically and socially. And don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find “the one and only” college that you “must” attend. You will have fun and be successful at any number of colleges that cater to your career of interest.

  1. Start The College Application Process Early

Because each college’s application process and deadlines vary (though many open the process around the same time of year), you’ll want to start the application process by the summer before your senior year. This gives you plenty of time to research the colleges you’ll want to apply to and to have everything needed to make the application process go smoothly. One of these key items being application letters. When applying, most colleges ask you to submit three letters of recommendation, and it’s better to get these sooner rather than later, to avoid being held up on your applications by someone else, or rushing them to write a not-so-great letter. By asking for these letters at the end of your junior year, you’re giving someone plenty of time over the summer to think about and pen an impressive letter of recommendation for you.

  1. Engage in Extracurricular Activities

Something you can do as early as your freshman year to prepare yourself for college (or selecting a college) is engage in extracurricular activities and sports. Not only do colleges look for involvement in various clubs, organizations and athletics on applications, but getting involved in an extracurricular activity –  Student Government, ROTC, or Track and Field – will give you a better idea of where your abilities, interests, and talents lie and what your career goals may be. This helps greatly when you’re researching colleges to attend. It’s also a great way to learn leadership and interpersonal skills. And those letters of recommendation? You could get one from your favorite coach or club-sponsor teacher.

  1. Learn to Take Better Notes

If your note-taking skills are rather lacking, you’ll need to seriously brush up on those skills before you get to college. Because gone will be the days of your teacher handing out an outline for the lesson. Taking detailed notes will not only help you pay attention in class and better retain the material, but they are crucial for reviewing, studying, and helping you pass a test or exam. Read more about how to take better notes here. While you’re brushing up on your note-taking skills, definitely take some time to hone your general study skills as well.

  1. Learn Time Management

In college, you’ll have a sometimes-overwhelming amount of work to juggle from class projects and papers, lab work, homework, club activities and more, all with deadlines and due dates. And without self-disciple and the necessary time-management skills, you could fall behind and find it impossible to catch up. To start, buy a paper planner and practice managing your time in high school–add due dates of assignments, appointments, sports practices, and test dates. Add study blocks and breaks. Get in the habit of keeping track of everything in a planner or calendar now, so that by the time you get to college, you will be a skilled organizer, rather than a sloppy juggler.

  1. Visit Your Highschool Guidance Counselor ASAP

It’s never too soon to get to know your high school counselor, so you’ll want to build a relationship with him or her as early as your freshman year… and check in often. Showing a counselor you care about your now and your future, not only puts you on their radar (they have a LOT of students to guide) it opens doors to valuable, helpful, college-related information you may not have had access to had you not stopped in to talk and ask questions.

  1. Take A College Class

Look at your degree course requirements and take advanced classes if possible – in high school. Doing so will not only help you build college credit before college, it will enhance your college application – showing colleges that you are serious, motivated, and willing to challenge yourself.  Just be sure you are self-disciplined and can handle the extra work and pace that comes with taking a college course while still in high school. See your high school counselor for more information.

  1. Read More College Guides and Resources!

U.S. News’s “A Complete Guide To The College Application Process”

Khan Academy’s “Applying To College” lessons

Best College’s The Student Guide to College Planning

College Greenlight


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