The Four Year Plan for College Admittance Success
Senior year may seem far away. But, remember: Colleges look at your grades from all four years of high school. It's good to take several higher-difficulty classes (i.e. Honors, Pre-AP). The ultimate goal, however, is to maintain consistency in your grades, keeping them in the A-B range. So don't overload on harder classes if you can't maintain acceptable scores.
With that said, don't drop your Pre-AP classes just because they seem tough the first week. Yes, they are different from the honors classes in junior high, but the difficulty level will prepare you so much for the future years to come.
Take advantage of school clubs, community service and other extracurricular opportunities. Start building your resume early, while the workload is lighter than that of junior and senior year.
Develop good study habits. Learn to take good notes. In college, your lecture notes will make you or break you!
Take electives like speech, fine arts, health and P.E. If you keep putting these off, you might have to take these as a senior stuck in a class of freshmen.
Get a part-time job and open a savings account if you don't have one. You never know what your family's situation will be four years from now; you should be prepared to chip in a little for college.
Assess your grades. If you struggled during freshman year, don't be too discouraged. Try hard to increase your GPA. Colleges like to see good grades, but they also think highly of someone who started out with a struggle but consistently made improvements.
Decide what electives you are going to be actively involved in before the year begins. For example, if you are thinking about a career in journalism, take newspaper or yearbook. If you want a more "hands-on" experience, join wood shop.
Get more community-service hours. See if your school has an Interact, Key Club or National Honor Society, any very large and well-known school service group.
If you haven't had a year of a foreign language, sign up for one. If you have a college in mind, make sure it accepts the language you are taking -- some don't consider American Sign Language a foreign-language credit.
Start a "college" notebook. You'll begin to attend college fairs, get on mailing lists, and schools will send you a ton of material in the mail. Keep it organized in pockets or sections of a binder. At the very least, clear out a drawer for it in your desk.
Take the PSATs. Get some test-taking experience as early as possible. Use the scores to improve for the next year, when you'll take the real SAT.
Start visiting colleges between the summer of sophomore and junior years. Try visiting schools close to home first, then work your way around the country. Attend a sports event or fine-arts performance on campus if you can, to get a feel for campus life and offerings.
Junior year usually is the most crucial year for grades. Since you will begin applying for college admission in the fall of your senior year, your transcript may not include your GPA for the first semester of senior year. Maintain a strong GPA and/or raise it to achievable standards. If you begin to notice any signs of struggling, get a tutor.
Your formal college search begins. Get well-acquainted with your guidance counselor. Research colleges, go on campus tours, and ask people you know about their experiences at particular schools. By spring, narrow down your possible college choices to about five.
In the fall, take the PSATs again. Once you've evaluated your strengths and weaknesses, try to enroll in an SAT prep course or with an SAT tutor. These resources usually improve your scores and give some pretty nifty strategies.
In the spring, take the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests. Then plan to take it at least once more. The more you take it, the more you increase your chances for a score high enough to gain automatic acceptance.
Get your extracurricular and community-service time in, but don't overload yourself. That's easy to do in junior year, because you're climbing the ladder of leadership in clubs you've been involved in since sophomore or freshman year.
Start reading about different majors and careers. Courses of study offered may play a big role in your college decision. Visit collegeboard.org to research potential colleges and universities and the degree programs they offer.
Start seriously looking into financial aid. Don't be afraid to ask your parents how they plan to pay for college, or how much financial aid they think you'll need. Collegeboard.org has a great financial-aid calculator.
Do you need to take the SAT again? Subject tests? The SAT is offered in October, November and December. You may or may not get a higher score, but it's worth trying.
Write your resume. Include service activities, employment and honors you've earned throughout high school.
Start applying to colleges. The best way to enter this process is to download applications or contact college admissions offices. Get them filled out as early -- but also as thoroughly -- as possible. Devote a weekend early in the year strictly to filling out applications. Take some time to write your essays and have them reviewed by a tutor or your current English teacher.
Apply for scholarships. Your college guidance counselor should have applications; check out scholarship books and collegeboard.org for more choices.
Once you get accepted, start looking at your college's schedule. There will be separate deadlines for financial aid, enrollment and tuition payments.
Get a summer internship after graduation, or use the summer to work as hard as you can so you have extra spending money for college.
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