If you’re currently an underclassman, meaning a 9th and 10th grader, it’s certainly not too early to think about college. Whether you have thought about college or not, there is nothing wrong with starting early. Essentially, everything you do now in high school is to prepare yourself for the next four years. We have a few suggestions for you and would like to get you started on college planning today.
Step 1: Choose the Right Classes
Most high schools have a specific curriculum for their students to follow. As a result, most underclassmen do not think twice before the next school year because their peers are more or less taking the same courses. However, colleges will look at all the courses you take throughout high school. If there’s a subject you’re particularly good at, you should try to take the honors level class if possible. Say you’re good at/interested in chemistry, it’s better for you to take honors chemistry first, and then AP Chemistry. In most cases, a good grade in honors chemistry is the prerequisite for AP Chem, so you’re doing yourself a favor by enrolling in honors chemistry as a 9th/10th grader.
Step 2: GPA Matters
Some say your junior year in high school is the most crucial because that’s the last full-year transcript colleges will receive. That’s only half the story, though. Your grades as a sophomore certainly affect your GPA and even class rank, and colleges can use your sophomore year grades to evaluate you as a student. If you can outperform you peers as a sophomore, you immediately stand out. This tells colleges that you’re willing to spend more time on academics when others are not paying much attention to their grades. Also, keep in mind that colleges want to see an upward trend, so continue to improve and take challenging courses if offered.
Step 3: Extracurricular Activity
Something on the other side of the story. As you take harder courses in your junior and senior years, you will have less time for extracurriculars. Therefore, take advantage of the time you have now and join clubs, play sports, and try different things. It is best if you can explore your possibilities now and find your interests along the way, so that later when course-load increases, you can make the decision and stick with what you’re truly passionate about. It’s not about the number of things you’ve tried, but rather your willingness to explore and sustain your passion.
Step 4: Test Prep and College Research
This is the last and perhaps the most important point. When no one is studying for the SAT/ACT, you should. This may sound extremely tedious and annoying but trust me, this always pays off. Many people think they can be fully ready for the SAT/ACT in a few weeks, but if that’s what you do, you will probably never reach your true potential. Start by memorizing vocabulary and take practice exams; there are thousands of practice questions and mock tests available online, and all you need to do is open a browser. You can identify your weaknesses early and improve them before taking your first official test (usually as a junior). Again, this always pays off, so start now!