Written by Camryn Brown, University of Miami, College Contact Counselor
Embarking on the journey to higher education can be both thrilling and overwhelming. With the infinite amount of choices, deadlines, and requirements, starting the college planning process early in high school is not just a suggestion – it's a strategic move toward success. In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of early college planning and share some essential steps to guide you through the process based on personal experience. Trust me; this is your guide to getting into college and owning it once you're there!
Ace Your Academics
High school is like building the base for your dream castle, and college is that castle. Starting early means you get to focus on building a strong GPA, tackling tough courses, and getting into the groove of effective study habits. It's not just about impressing college admissions; it's about being ready to tackle college assignments like a boss. Take classes that interest you but also push you as a student, and take your grades seriously! Having great grades is the foundation of your college applications.
Discover Your Passion
College isn't just about textbooks; it's about finding your passion and determining what makes you happy! Early college planning gives you the time to explore your interests and figure out what really gets you excited. Whether joining clubs, diving into internships, or completing volunteer work in your dream field, now's your chance to make high school all about your passions and dreams. Doing this early will help you not only help you to discover who you are, it will help mold you into a competitive college applicant!
Be a Well-Rounded Star
Think beyond grades! Colleges want the whole package – the well-rounded, awesome you. Early planning lets you build a portfolio filled with everything you love – sports, arts, community service, you name it. Interested in taking a 3D drawing class? Take it! Want to join the student environmental club on campus? Join it! Being a well-rounded student means actively participating in various activities that make you who you are. Show off your skills and interests because colleges love students who bring a little extra to the table.
Build Meaningful Relationships
Last but not least, make friends with your teachers, even if you don’t think you need to! Building connections with teachers, counselors, and mentors during high school allows them to genuinely understand your strengths and character. These relationships contribute to more compelling recommendation letters, providing college admissions boards with a holistic view of you as a student and increasing your chances of securing admission to your desired college. These relationships can help show colleges the real you, making you stand out and increasing your chances of getting into your dream college!
I started my college planning process in my freshman year of high school. After taking the PSAT in the ninth grade, I was fortunate to receive a comprehensive guide that outlined the crucial steps to take each year in preparation for college applications. Let me share those essential steps with you below:
Steps to Prepare for College Applications:
1. Freshman Year: Establish a Strong Foundation
- Focus on building a solid GPA.
- Explore extracurricular activities to discover interests.
- Meet with your high school counselor to discuss your academic goals.
2. Sophomore Year: Explore Potential Career Paths
- Narrow down potential career interests.
- Begin researching colleges and their requirements.
- Consider taking PSAT to prepare for standardized testing.
- Use the summertime to do volunteer work and secure internships
3. Junior Year: Test Preparation and College Exploration
- Take the PSAT/NMSQT for National Merit Scholarship consideration.
- Start test preparation for the SAT/ACT if required.
- Attend college fairs and campus visits to explore options.
- Continue taking part in community service and internships
4. Senior Year: Finalize College List and Submit Applications
- Narrow down your college choices.
- Obtain leadership positions in your school organizations
- Request letters of recommendation.
- Finalize and submit college applications by deadlines. The earlier you submit, the better.
In conclusion, starting the college planning process during your freshman year in high school is a strategic investment in your future. By focusing on academic excellence, exploring interests, and strategically preparing for standardized tests, you can position yourself as a well-rounded and competitive applicant. The journey to college success is a marathon, not a sprint, and an early start ensures that you have the time and resources needed to achieve your goals. So, embrace the process, stay organized, and enjoy the exciting journey ahead!