Today, a record 20 million are expected to attend college this fall – that’s 70% of all high school graduates. This means that for students aspiring to attend elite colleges, competition is higher than ever. Ambitious high school students know how to prepare during their sophomore, junior, and senior years. Unfortunately, however, most seem to be completely in the dark on how to prepare during their freshman years.
The first year of high school is universally acknowledged as the easiest, but that doesn’t give you license to coast. Most high schools do not allow freshmen to take Advanced Placement, Accelerated, or Honors classes, so don’t worry if your GPA freshman year is unweighted. Instead, use your easy course load to keep your GPA up, and use the inevitable free time left over to participate in school activities like sports and extracurriculars.
Although colleges always look at a student’s GPA and SAT score first, extracurricular activities are important as well. Look into what your school’s strengths are and get involved with those activities in particular. For example, some schools have a strong Key Club (a club dedicated to community service), or Robotics Club. School involvement is a fundamental aspect on your college applications. Students are encouraged to start their own club in a subject that they are passionate about to demonstrate leadership skills and enhance their high school experience.
Freshman year is also an ideal year to complete the necessary community service hours in order to graduate. Make sure not to procrastinate on this – in order to go to college, you need to graduate first. Look into nonprofit organizations that reflect what you’re passionate about, or your future career goals. For example, if you’re interested in the medical profession, volunteer in a hospital (but those spots go fast, so apply as soon as possible). A good place to start is www.volunteermatch.org. Remember, this is important not only for college applications – if you plan on applying for a job or an internship later, you can put this volunteering job on your resumé.
If you’re thinking about preparing for the SAT 1 Reasoning Test freshman year, don’t. The test is designed for juniors and seniors. If you start prepping now, you’ll forget everything by the time the test actually does roll around. Don’t waste time and energy on preparing for the SAT freshman year, instead find what you’re passionate about and explore your extracurricular options.
Another looming fear when it comes to college is the rising costs of tuition. How can your family begin preparing now? Come to my next College Funding Workshop! I’ll provide steps you can take right now to start planning ahead.
Remember not to overburden yourself by worrying too much about college. You have three years to go, and if all you’re focused on is getting into college the entire time, you’ll not only regret it, but also stress yourself out.
This Money for College blog was written by Beatrice Schultz of Westface College Planning. For more Money for College tips, sign up for a free College Funding workshop or webinar.
Photo Credit: Edsortium.com