Whether you’re in your first year of high school or approaching your last, it is never a bad time to start preparing for college. However, the earlier you begin building your candidacy for university, the better! There are steps you can take as early as your freshman year to strengthen your academics and extracurriculars, and each year you can focus on more specific components of your profile so that when it comes time to apply, you’ll be putting your best foot forward.
Throughout your time in high school, here are 6 ways you can prepare for college:
- Do research on the universities you may want to apply to and what your priorities are when it comes time to decide where to enroll.
- Take challenging classes throughout high school and be sure to maintain a high GPA.
- Get involved in extracurricular and leadership activities early in order to cultivate your passions and showcase your ability to commit to a group or project over time.
- Start working on your college essays early! The more time you have to brainstorm, write and revise, the better the final product will be.
- Connect with mentors who can help guide you through the process — whether they’re current students at the unis you’re aiming for, counselors and teachers at your high school, or professionals who can help set you up for success.
- When you have a firm idea of where you want to go and are heading into your final year of high school, consider applying early as a way to boost your admissions odds.
Read on to learn more about how and when to execute each of these steps during your admissions journey!
Why start preparing for college in high school?
Preparing for university early allows a student to engage with their high school career in a meaningful and authentic way that could drastically increase their chances of attending their dream university.
But beyond this, your journey to college is special! Instead of procrastinating until your last year or two of high school, then stressing about the process and everything that needs to be done, getting started early will allow you to feel all the excitement and anticipation you have earned from your hard work and perseverance when it comes time to put your applications together!
Knowing you want to pursue higher education is the first big step. From there, every other step centers on turning your dream into reality.
On the technical side, identifying your best-fit university, understanding what goes into a strong college application, and learning exactly what admissions officers look for will make your application journey much easier to navigate.
On the personal end, remember that universities accept individuals, not just words on paper! Authenticity and passion are best shown in your commitment to your interests over time, so use your time in high school to hone in on your strengths and interests through your academics, extracurricular activities, community engagement, and your college essays.
If you’re a newcomer to the college application process, do not fret. This blog will tell you all you need to know to prepare for college in high school!
How to start preparing for college in high school
1. Do research to help decide where you might want to apply
The location, climate, academic specialties, extracurricular offerings, and campus culture at a college could be the perfect fit for one student, and the total opposite for another. This is why it’s crucial to look beyond a university’s name or reputation to figure out whether it’s a good fit for you.
If possible, visiting one or more campuses can be a big help in deciding which schools you are interested in pursuing. If not, researching colleges, watching videos on other students’ experiences, and comparing academic programs you plan to pursue are also all important factors in picking the best place for you!
2. Take classes that challenge you while maintaining a competitive GPA
When sorting through applications, admissions officers are not only looking at your test scores and Grade Point Average (GPA), but they’re looking at your transcript to see which classes you chose to take in high school, relative to the opportunities that were available to you.
Challenge yourself with what is available to you and showcase your ability to keep up with difficult coursework through your transcript. While this is easier said than done, practicing effective study habits could make all the difference in your academic outcomes. Enroll in additional AP or A Level classes to challenge yourself in high school.
3. Highlight your passions and leadership skills through your extracurricular activities
Beyond academics, admissions officers will consider how you as a student could contribute to their university’s campus community. This will shine through in the type of activities you engage with, what you’re passionate about, and the leadership roles you take on (founder, president, volunteer), which will help paint a picture of who you are, what’s important to you, and what you’ll bring with you to campus culture.
Extracurriculars should be one of the first things you start working on in preparation for college, as demonstrating authentic interest takes time!
4. Craft college essays that stand out from the rest
The application essays provide the most direct way to communicate who you are, and who you would be on a college campus, to admissions officers. While academic and extracurricular achievements are also important, the essays provide a chance to expand on your strengths, reflect on your experiences and showcase what matters most to you.
Make sure you’re brainstorming, outlining and drafting your college essays well before your applications are due, as the strongest essays will have evolved through multiple drafts. Your final essays should pique and maintain the reader’s interest while shedding light on a challenge you’ve overcome, a lesson you’ve learned or a transformation you’ve undergone. We know — this is a lot to ask for in a relatively brief essay! Which is why Crimson’s mentors work with students for months to perfect their essays.
5. Communicate with mentors
One of the best ways to find advice on how to get into university is by asking admissions counselors/experts or alumni who have already successfully navigated the college application process.
Speaking to your college counselor about your plans is a good way to start, but it does not have to end there! Talking to current college students about their admissions process and first-hand advice is a great way to gain some valuable perspective on how you can follow in their footsteps.
As for guidance from the experts, Saghatelyan Institute for Strategic Education's (SIS Education) global network of mentors are ready to provide the support you need on every step of the application process.
6. Consider applying early
As you prepare for your final year of high school, after you’ve zeroed in on your dream school and worked hard to build your candidacy, you may be in a perfect position to apply early. Applying for early admission is an easy way to stand out as the applicant pool is smaller and submitting an early application demonstrates your commitment to that university.
In the US, applying in the Early Decision round is binding, meaning if you’re accepted, you are obligated to attend. If you apply early to your first-choice school and don’t get in, you can still apply to others in the Regular Decision round; but applying early can put you at quite a strategic advantage.
Juggling the natural stressors of high school paired with the demands of college applications is not easy — but preparing for university early, and keeping with it throughout high school, ensures you can give the application process the attention it deserves and give yourself the best chance of success.
Are you ready to get started? Saghatelyan Institute for Strategic Education's (SIS Education) mentors are here to help. For advice on how to start your university journey, contact us for a free one-on-one consultation.