Current 8th Graders Should Start Making a Plan for Their First Year of High School
The easiest way to minimize the stress associated with the college admissions process is to start early! If you have an understanding of what admissions officers are looking for and what you need to check off of your to-do list and when, you can avoid last-minute time crunches. Do yourself a favor and use the summer before 9th grade to plan for your freshman year of high school and, ultimately, set yourself up for college prep success for the next four years.
Colleges look at all four years of courses, grades, and activities, so the college prep process should start as soon as you enter high school, but many also start as early as 8th grade – crafting a college prep plan to take students through their senior year.
Not sure what kind of prep work you need to do? The list below outlines everything you need to start thinking about as you enter the summer before your freshmen year, as well as pointers on how you can build on this foundation during sophomore, junior, and even senior year. From extracurricular activities to starting test prep, keep reading to catch up on the components of the college application process that need to be on your radar now.
Developing your passions early will help you get a major head start on the college admissions process. Admissions officers love to see students with a sustained commitment to a handful of activities throughout all four years of high school, so spending some time this spring and summer thinking about what you enjoy and what you want to learn more about can help you choose relevant activities once you enter freshman year. Instead of signing up for every club your school offers or joining the track team just because your friend loves to run, think about what kind of activities you enjoy most and find extracurriculars that align with those interests. As you reach sophomore or junior year, try to expand on these areas of interest by taking on a leadership position in a related club or activity or studying it more intensely during summer break.
Colleges don’t exclusively care about your GPA; they also evaluate academic rigor by reviewing what courses you took in the context of the classes your high school offers. If you’re looking to apply to selective colleges, it’s in your best interest to take as many upper level classes as you can realistically handle while maintaining good grades. No university expects you to enroll in all of the most advanced courses your school offers during freshmen year, but you should enter 9th grade with a plan to put you on track to take the most advanced courses offered by the time you’re a junior and senior. Whether it’s pursuing an honors-level seminar or self-studying for certain AP exams, try to select academically rigorous classes from the start and meet with your college counselor to evaluate and revise your course plans as needed.
You don’t need to start cramming for the SAT right away, but standardized testing should be on your radar as early as freshman year. Make sure you have good study habits and apply yourself in every class. Make a test prep plan that encompasses all standardized testing including the SAT or ACT, PSAT, PLAN, SAT Subject Tests, and more. You may choose to study for the PSAT during freshmen year to prepare for the exam, which is usually administered during your sophomore year. Students who perform exceptionally well on this standardized test are eligible to apply for the National Merit Scholarship, a prestigious competition. Students in 9th and 10th grade can also start preparing for SAT Subject Tests that align with their current coursework, like biology for example.
Starting high school with your best foot forward will pay off in the long run. Making friends with your peers is obviously important, but so is building relationships with your teachers and college counselor. Eventually, you will reach out to teachers and your counselor for recommendation letters, which you will submit as part of your college application. While many students choose educators who they worked with during sophomore and junior year, you never know who might end up teaching upper level classes. Developing good relationships from the start will make it easier to reach out if you ever struggle with a concept and lay the foundation for exceptional recommendation letters in the future.
While these guidelines will help set you up for success, your own admissions experience will vary depending on your interests and goals. At IvyWise we work with students throughout their high school experience to help them develop a college prep plan that will carry them through the entire admissions process. Starting early is key to admissions success, so contact us today for more information on our services for high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, as well as programs for rising seniors applying to college this fall.