- Make sure your classes are considered “college prep”
- Build relationships with teachers and friends who support your college aspirations
- Get involved in activities inside and outside of your school
- Explore possible career paths that incorporate your interests
- Participate in summer enrichment activities (camps, clubs, classes, etc.)
Most four-year colleges require that students at a minimum take 4 years of English, 3 years of Science (including 2 lab sciences), 3 years of Social Studies, 3 years of Math (through Algebra II), and 2 years of a Modern Language while in high school to be eligible for admission. In addition, college admission counselors want to see that students are challenging themselves with rigorous coursework while in high school, as this is usually the best indication of how a student is likely to perform in college. While the exact names of these classes differ by school, those labeled “Honors,” “Accelerated,” “AP” or “IB” are often considered to be rigorous college-prep courses by colleges.
Having a supportive network of teachers and peers at school is crucial in the college admissions process. Not only can teachers help you in your college search, with your college recommendation letters and proofreading your personal statements, but your peers can keep you on track and motivated during times of stress. Guidance counselors, coaches, and family members are also great sources of support throughout the admissions process.
Think about what you love to do and do it! Whether that’s playing sports, performing in the school play, running for student council or starting your own club – find something that you’re passionate about and go for it. Remember that this can also include things you’re involved in outside of school, such as community service work, a part-time job or volunteering with your church. Seeing what activities you’re involved in gives the admissions committee an insight into what talents or passions you might bring to their campus, as well as your ability to juggle multiple responsibilities simultaneously – something you’ll do a lot of in college. Remember when signing up for activities and clubs that quality is more important than quantity – admissions counselors would always prefer to see a student deeply committed to two or three things than only partially involved in ten.
When thinking about the college search process it’s important to identify what types of majors or programs you’re interested in. Different career paths will have different requirements in terms of schooling and certification. For example, if you think you want to be a teacher you’ll want to make sure that you’re looking at colleges that offer a state certification program. If you want to be a doctor, you should be prepared to complete four years of college followed by four years of medical school and additional training after that. If you’re unsure about what career might be a good fit for you, try using some free tools which can help you explore new careers or find out what careers are ideal for someone with your interests. The College Board offers some great resources here: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/explore-careers.
Continue to challenge yourself during the summer – ask your teachers and guidance counselors about summer enrichment programs (camps, classes, etc.) in your area.
Not only will this help you retain and deepen the knowledge you’ve gained over the past school year, but these programs can count toward your list of activities for college applications. Admission counselors love to see students pursuing their interests and staying academically engaged during the summer months.