9 THINGS UNDERCLASSMEN SHOULD DO NOW TO GET AHEAD IN THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PROCESS
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is waiting too long to get started on the college admissions process. Delaying can have serious negative repercussions that can follow you for decades to come—failing to get into a chosen college, losing out on scholarships and other financial aid opportunities, and more. Don’t get left behind! Here are 9 things underclassmen should do now to get ahead in the process and jumpstart their futures:
While it’s true that many students enter college “undecided” with little or no idea of what they really want to study, this approach not actually recommended. It is a lot easier to sell yourself on your applications when you have a specific academic direction in mind. Instead of trying to be the most blended or well-rounded student, do your best to stand out. Colleges today specifically look for students with creative angles or skills that will bring something unique to campus. Once you find a direction you like, be driven and passionate about the subject matter. Do your best to align your high school class selections, extracurricular, and volunteer activities with your direction. I know it’s cliché to say it, but don’t delay thinking about what you want to be when you grow up!
#2: Start visiting schools
While you may have one dream college in mind that you want to attend above all others, don’t limit yourself when it comes to options. Having a plan B (and maybe C, D, & E) is always a good idea. A great way to jump start your college list is to start visiting campuses. Walk around, take the guided tour, and eat lunch in the cafeteria. If possible, sit in on a class or two. Get familiar with the things that you like or dislike about the learning environment. Once you’ve visited enough schools, you will have a good idea of what type of a place is a best fit for you.
#3: Attend college fairs
Make note of college fairs in and around your area, and make a point to attend them. Fairs are put on by large national organizations such as NACAC (National Association for College Admissions Counseling) or smaller organizations such as individual schools. There is a good chance that your local high school has a “college fair” or “college night” as well. These events can be great sources of information about prospective schools and can give you the opportunity to make some face-to-face connections as well. Get out there to chat with college reps, get on their mailing lists, and learn more about what schools may be a best fit for you in the future!
#4: Study for college admissions exams
College admissions exams such as the SAT and the ACT are a big deal. Admissions tests can have serious implications not only in admissions but financial aid as well. The sooner you start preparing, the more time you’ll have to get your scores up and qualify for the maximum amount of merit aid. There are many test-prep resources available both online and in print, and practice tests can help a great deal as well. If you can, elect to study with a professional one-on-one tutor that can tailor the prep experience to you and your needs. Regardless of how you choose to prepare, make sure that you do so ahead of time. Proper preparation should begin at least 2-3 months prior to the exam!
#5: Keep your grades up
While college admissions exams are important, grades are the most crucial component to the admissions equation. Every mark on your high school transcript counts toward that all-important GPA, so keep them high! Sticking your head in the sand about the matter can be tempting, but it will only make things worse in the end. If you find yourself struggling, be proactive at the very first sign of trouble. Always reach out to your teachers and parents for help. In addition, showing improvement as you become older and more mature makes a much stronger case than a decline in your grades as you progress through high school. Keep in mind that Sophomore and Junior year are the most important two years in the GPA equation. Make them count!
#6: Get involved
You’ve probably heard it before: colleges prefer busy students. While colleges do like to see more than one club or organization in your repertoire, don’t spread yourself too thin. If possible, align at least some of your extracurricular activities with subjects that you might want to study in college. Extracurricular activities are also good avenues to take on positions of leadership, an important component of a strong college application.
#7: Volunteer your time
In addition to extracurricular activities, colleges also want to see that you’ve logged some volunteer hours during your high school career. It’s a good idea to begin building your record of community service during your Freshman and Sophomore years, since your academic load will likely increase as you become an upperclassman. You’re also likely to find a niche service project or organization that you relate to on a higher level, making it easier to discuss your experiences on your college applications. Don’t put this off. Volunteering your time to help others or serve the community shouldn’t be just a one-time thing. Make it a long-term habit!
#8: Maintain relationships
When it comes time to submit college applications, you’re going to need recommendations from teachers, coaches, administrators, and the like. For now, it’s time to give those people something to say about you. Start a list of people that you have established a relationship with and keep in touch with them throughout your high school years. Most importantly: Don’t burn any bridges! Reputations have a habit of following you for years to come. Try to ensure that people can say only positive things about you!
#9: Keep a journal
While beginning your admissions essays now may be jumping the gun a bit, it’s not too early to start thinking about topics. A common complaint amongst students is that they simply don’t know what to write about. Keeping a journal is the perfect solution as it can help you record events and ideas that could be helpful down the line when it comes time to put pen to paper.
College may be in the distant future, but as your high school schedule becomes busier, the time will fly by. It’s a good idea to start preparing now, so that you’re on top of the college admissions game as your Senior year approaches. Trust us when we say that it will be here before you know it. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Karl Lenss is the managing director of Academic Angle. He can be reached at email@example.com
Want to make your application the best it can be? We can help! the Academic Angle team has years of knowledge and experience that will help to make sure that you are making the best impression possible. Take a giant step closer to realizing your college admission dreams by contacting us today!