Prepare for College Starting in High School
You should already be doing these things:
Read about college. Learn vocabulary. Read Challenging Books. Improve Math Skills. Improve Writing Skills. Get started on SAT Practice Tests. Visit nearby colleges. go to College Fairs or Workshops. Talk to your parents about money for college.
What else should you do in High School to Prepare for College?
The picture on the right below shows some modern dormitories at one campus of the University of Massachusetts. It is interesting to see the contrasts between some of the older and more classic architecture and modern building like this. Can you picture yourself living in a building like this one?
1. Aim for excellent grades. Grades matter now that you’re in High School. When you read about different colleges, they’ll often tell you how many students were in the top five or ten percent in High School. You want to be one of those people.
2. Grades matter but taking challenging classes matters more. Don’t take easy classes to get an easy A. Take classes recommended for college. Include as many advanced level classes, AP (Advanced Placement) classes, and classes at a local college as possible.
IMPORTANT: After each AP class, take the test on that subject, and take the SAT II test on that subject. If you wait until your Junior or Senior year, you’ll have forgotten a lot of important information. You should understand that high scores on AP tests will give you college credit for the subject in many (but not all) colleges. Some students use these credits and credits from college classes taken while in HS to graduate from college a year early – saving many thousands of dollars.
. A. Take as many Math classes as you can. Take Calculus if possible, especially if you might study math, science, or business in college. If your math skills are weak, use Khan Academy on the Internet to start from the beginning and cover math from grade 1-12 or as far as you can go. It will be a great help to review and relearn all that material. Try doing this for 30 minutes a day, maybe longer on weekends. www.Khanacademy.org It’s free and you’ll learn more than you would if you paid a tutor. Try it.
. B. Take all the Science you can including Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Remember that it is much easier to keep up with college classes in Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, if you have studied the subjects in High School.
. C. You probably need at least two years of a foreign language and more if you can fit it in your schedule. Some colleges recommend four years of one language and at least two years of another.
. D. Take Computer classes including keyboarding, word processing, and spreadsheets. The more you learn about computers, the easier it will be to find a job later. Students who don’t take computer classes in High School are often required to take non-credit classes in college.
. E. If you have some idea of what you’d like to study in college, take additional classes in those areas now.
3. Join school or community organizations. Do volunteer work. Work with the goal of being chosen for leadership positions in the future. I joined nearly every group in my school and that was pretty stupid. Stick with two or three groups and participate actively. You need information to put in the blank space on applications to describe your high school activities.
4. Starting in ninth grade, make a long list of scholarships you could apply for. You’ll have a better chance of winning scholarships that aren’t open to everyone. Does your religious group, your parents’ workplace, your ethnic group, or other category make you eligible for scholarships? You have more time now and will be very glad you did this early. This will also give you some ideas of things you can do now to be eligible for certain scholarships.
You can do Scholarship research with books from your library or on the Internet. I’d recommend listing at least 100 possibilities and 200 would be even better. Look for those you can apply for long before you’re a senior. Most students will miss those opportunities. Ask your guidance counselor about local scholarships.
Keep a Scholarship Notebook or series of files.
- List the name of the scholarship,
- what you’d need to do to win it,
- when to request an application,
- and deadlines to submit applications.
It’s always best to send applications early. Put important dates on a calendar. Aim to complete and submit at least two or three applications every week…. more during certain time periods.
5. Begin thinking about who you will ask to write letters of recommendation for you. You want at least one teacher, someone who knows you well. You might ask a guidance counselor to write one. Think about all of your activities in and out of school. A teacher or other adult leader in one of these can write about your leadership skills. If you have worked with a community or religious group to do work projects or something similar, ask the person who you worked with to write a letter describing your work.
6. Learn about the PSAT and PLAN. You can even take these as a sophomore. You want to find the deadline for taking the PSAT in October your Junior Year. Be sure to register early. This test is the only way you could be eligible for a National Merit Scholarship… and win other honors that can help you get more financial aid.
7. Read the next section BEFORE the beginning of your junior year. Be prepared.
Continue to read the third section about what to do Junior and Senior Year: Prepare for College 3