Freshmen and sophomores still have a few years before submitting applications and picking where they'll go to college. Here are a few to-do's to start on now.
1. Start taking charge of your high school education.
Visit your teacher after class when you need help. If you have a scheduling question, make an appointment with your counselor. If you’re interested in a college, research the school and sign up to be notified of upcoming events in your area. Don’t wait for your parents to do these things for you. They’re not going to college in just a few short years—you are. Start taking that control now.
2. Commit yourself to activities you really enjoy.
There is no magic list of activities that colleges reward. What colleges really care about is how much you care about what you do in high school. Whether that’s quarterbacking the football team, playing the bassoon, running the lights for the school musicals or working a part time job at a local fast food restaurant, do it because you enjoy doing it, not because you heard it will help you get in to college. The more committed you are and the greater the impact you make doing what you’re doing, the more colleges will appreciate the choice.
3. Shine in your favorite classes.
There aren’t many students who can set the curve in every class. That’s why most colleges don’t require anywhere near that level of achievement. So even if you haven’t had a 4.0 since birth, you should always use your best subjects as a chance to give your best performances. Whether it’s math, drama, or video production, colleges appreciate flashes of academic potential even if your overall GPA doesn’t break the bank.
4. Learn to interact with adults.
When you go to college, you’ll become a part of the campus community composed not just of students your own age, but also of faculty and staff who are much older than you. It’s important to practice working and interacting with adults now. I’m not suggesting you have to be Facebook friends with your English teacher, but you should be able to have a mature conversation with an adult without looking like you’re about to go into cardiac arrest. For many students, that’s a learned skill. Start learning it now. If you can earn the respect of your teachers, counselor, coach and boss, you’re doing something right.
5. Get excited about college.
A lot of your peers (and their parents) are going to treat the process of finding and getting into college as some terrible battle to survive and emerge victorious. It doesn’t have to be. Unless you believe that the only colleges worth going to are the ones that reject everybody (it’s not true, by the way), you have every reason to be excited about your college future. There’s a school out there for you, one where you’ll learn, discover your talents, meet new people and have plenty of collegiate fun. The harder you work now, the more college options you’ll have. But don’t let other people ruin what should be an exciting ride to get there.