Now that you're in high school, the job of preparing for college begins in earnest. Colleges and universities will look at everything you do for the next four years, so consider it your opportunity to impress.
- Tell your high school counselor you want to attend college. Your counselor will help you schedule a college preparatory track. Ask about local, national, and school scholarships to help you set your goals. Start creating a checklist of important dates and deadlines.
- Strive for straight A's. While that may go without saying, keep in mind that top grades require at least one hour of studying each night.
- Do extra research and reading on subjects you're interested in. Heavy reading now will prepare you for college reading loads.
- Take part in extracurricular activities such as sports, arts, publications, science fairs. At the same time, don't overextend yourself -- excelling at a few pursuits is more impressive (and personally rewarding) than dabbling in too many interests.
- Form a study group with other college-bound students. Also, if you fall behind in a class, get after-school help or tutoring.
- Create an achievement file of report cards, recommendations, and lists of awards, honors, activities (both school and community), jobs (volunteer or paid), and offices you held in organizations. Update this file every semester. Keep track of all of your achievements in your file!
- Visit colleges with family and friends. Call the admission office before your visit to arrange for campus tours and printed materials. Many colleges and universities have special events planned throughout the year for prospective students and these will allow you to meet other prospective students. Also, tour the city the college is in -- after all, that will be home for four years.
- Start requesting recommendations now if you perform well in a class and have a good relationship with a teacher. Teachers often move to other schools, and you should get recommendations when your performance is fresh in their minds. Recommendations can also come from coaches, bosses, and others. Send thank you cards to everyone who writes one for you.
- Participate in enrichment programs, workshops, or camps on weekends or during the summer. If you underperformed in a particular class, try to retake it at summer school or elsewhere.
Adapted from the University of Southern California
Pick your high school classes strategically. Your school's graduation requirements may not be rigorous enough to qualify for the college you want. Most selective colleges require a preparatory track along these lines:
- 4 years of English & Literature
- 3 to 4 years of Math (including Advanced Algebra and Trigonometry)
- 2 to 3 years of Foreign Language
- 2 to 4 years of Laboratory Science
- 2 years of History and Social Science
- 3 years of Electives from the above
- Take extra classes related to your prospective college major -- especially Honors and Advanced Placement courses. For example, if you're thinking about studying engineering, math, science, or computer science in college, take all the high school math and science courses you can.
- Take electives in music, art, journalism, etc. Breadth of knowledge is as important as depth, especially for liberal arts (non-technical) colleges. Other useful classes: typing, writing, computer science.
- To fulfill all these requirements, plan your high school schedule early. If you started college preparation late, don't panic -- you can fill in academic gaps in summer school or junior college.
From the University of Southern California