18 Things High School Students Can Do to Prepare for College

High school is a time to discover yourself and figure out who you are as a person. However, it is also a time to get serious about what to do after high school. Taking steps that will pave the way to a successful college career will increase the likelihood for good decisions in your future. Here are some simple but important things you can do during high school to prepare for college:

  1. Study. Studying is a no brainer. Earning good grades takes time and effort, but your high school transcript needs to showcase a solid grade point average for any college to consider admitting you. If you struggle with a subject ask for help; and be sure to turn in all your assignments on time.
  2. Do extra credit. Ask for extra credit through all four years of high school, especially if you struggle with a specific subject. Doing so will not only help your overall GPA, but it will also make you stand out among high school teachers that admire initiative.
  3. Ask questions. A lot of high school students are satisfied sitting in the back of the class with their heads down. However, students that ask questions and engage themselves in the lesson often retain more during a class's lesson plan. Get in the habit of asking questions in your first year of high school and continue asking questions in class throughout college.
  4. Read, read, read! Reading outside of your high school obligations will help build your vocabulary and further prepare you for the college workload. Broadening your vocabulary may also help you earn higher scores on your English and reading-focused ACTs and SATs questions.
  5. Participate in extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities are important for several reasons. Firstly, in extra activities you have the opportunity to learn about music, arts, and athletics. You will also learn how to work and communicate with peers and mentors. Extracurricular activities also looks great on your transcript and shows college admission boards that you are a go-getter.
  6. Make a list of colleges. Make a list of colleges you’re considering attending in your sophomore or junior year. Talk with your high school guidance counselor and decide what subjects interest you. Narrow down your college list based on the schools that excel in these fields. At the end of your junior year, going into your senior year you should have a rough list of three to five colleges you’re serious about attending.
  7. Take a prep course. College prep courses give you additional time to study English, math, and science, and also give you a chance to see what it is like to study at the collegiate level. Many college prep courses cost money, so be sure to ask ahead of time.
  8. Take standardized tests. In your sophomore year you should take your PSAT in order to prepare yourself for the SAT. Many schools also offer the PLAN, or the pre-SAT. Your junior year is the best time to take the ACT and SAT, and plan on retaking the tests in your senior year if you are not happy with your scores.
  9. Take AP courses. Taking Advanced Placement courses will prepare you for college, and can also give you college credit while you work towards your high school diploma. Taking AP courses also look great on your high school transcript.
  10. Fill out your FAFSA. Filling out your Free Application for Federal Aid will give you an idea of how much college financial aid you are eligible for. Because many grants, scholarships, and other forms of federal aid are granted competitively it is important to fill out your FAFSA form by your junior year.
  11. Set a realistic college budget. Sit down with your parents or family and get real about how much you can afford to spend on college. Once you set a budget, talk with your guidance counselor about finding a college within that budget. Be sure to add extras like books and food to your budget, and also factor in any financial aid you may be eligible for.
  12. Make a list of deadlines. By your junior year, compile a list of deadlines you must meet. FAFSA forms, SAT/ACT tests, college applications, and other important deadlines should be met in an organized fashion. Don’t wait until the last minute. Creating a list will make sure you stay on track with all your important deadlines.
  13. Attend college fairs. College fairs are a great way to meet with several colleges without actually visiting the campus.
  14. Take challenging courses. Do not mistake high school for a breezy, four-year party. Challenge yourself with electives and AP courses to prepare you for college and beef up that all-important transcript.
  15. Apply for scholarships. No matter what your financial situation is, there are scholarships for high school students based on academic, athletic, and artistic achievements. Your high school and the college of your choosing should have a variety of scholarships. Choose the scholarships you are best suited for and apply in your junior and senior years. Note: many of these scholarships may have to wait until you decide which college you will attend.
  16. Apply! Applying to college is one of the most important steps on the road to furthering your education. Apply to as many colleges as possible, but keep in mind that there are application fees. Because of this, you may need to be selective. Apply to three to five of your top colleges, and ask your guidance counselor to review your application before you turn it in.
  17. Set high goals. Setting goals for yourself will help make you accountable for your own success. Strive to be in the top 10-15 percent of your class, take an extra elective in your junior and senior semesters, and even run for office in your class.
  18. Relax! Planning for college takes a lot of work and planning, and should be taken seriously. Yet, it is important to have fun and spend time with your friends. Your high school days will be over in four years, and before you know it you’ll be setting your sights on your college career. Enjoy your high school years while you can, and work hard for a successful college career.

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