You are officially in high school. The classes you take matter. The grades you make matter. Your test scores matter. The friends you surround yourself with matter. This is the big leagues–you’re preparing for college. In this four-part series entitled The College Roadmap, we’ll show you key actions that you should take each year of your high school career to maximize your chances of admittance to your dream college.
Transitioning from middle school to high school may involve changing schools, making new friends, coping with new course loads, and juggling extra responsibilities. Students’ freshman year in high school sets the stage for the rest of their high school and college years. We have compiled a list of need-to-know action items and tips for all high school freshmen.
Map Out Your High School Courses
High school brings additional freedom when it comes to academia, but along with freedom comes responsibilities. In most high schools, students are able to choose between certain classes (such as business versus psychology). It’s important to take the time before freshman year begins to map out the courses you plan to take in high school and when. When planning your classes, think of your future career goals and what you would like your major to be in college. Try to take classes that align with your major and occupational goals. School counselors are there to help guide you through this process, so reach out to them if you’re having trouble discerning the best classes for you to take.
No Class is a Blow-Off
It is important to attend every single class and get good grades in all of your classes. Colleges look at your attendance record to see how dependable and responsible you are. College admissions will view all of your high school transcripts to see how you perform academically. Once you enter high school, everything will be on your record for the next four years! So, gone are the days of an “F” not mattering! Time to buckle down and earn high grades.
Take Pre-Advanced Placement (or IB) Courses
Challenge yourself and sign up for some advanced classes. Even though advanced classes are more difficult, college recruiters will be impressed that you do not shy away from challenges. Taking advanced classes will help you learn how to tackle a larger course load which will continue to grow over the next few years. Set yourself up for success by signing up for at least one advanced class to see how it goes. Getting a “B” in an advanced class is equivalent to an “A” in a regular class, so don’t be too concerned if your grades are not as high as you’re used to. However, if you are truly struggling and not able to maintain a “B,” it is likely best that you drop down to an academic course.
Sign Up for Extracurricular Activities
Many high schools offer freshmen orientation which will give you a glimpse of some of the extracurriculars that your school offers. Take advantage of club fairs and sports fairs to find out how you would like to invest your time. Make it a priority to join at least two clubs or a sport since you will want leadership opportunities in the future and will have the foundation if you join a club or sport of interest your freshman year. It is imperative to get involved as early as you can. Don’t forget that colleges are looking for leaders, so start building that foundation now!
Volunteer Your Time
Volunteer your time serving the community through a community or faith-based organization. College recruiters look at your priorities in high school and seek out individuals who care about service projects outside of academia. Try out your green thumb by planting flowers and vegetables at a community park, serve at a soup kitchen, or read to children at the library. The key is to engage in the same activity (or similar activity) routinely. When you submit your college application, they will ask how many hours you completed for each activity, so go as many times as you can! Build up a record of attendance and participation and maybe find a true passion while you’re at it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find one of your college application essay topics doing one of your volunteer activities!
Sign up for the PSAT
It is never too early to start preparing for the SAT. The best way to do that your freshman year of high school is to sign up for the PSAT. Take the PSAT your freshman year to understand how the test works, to find your strengths and weaknesses, and to prepare for the actual SAT. The PSAT is a great way to practice standardized testing for college admissions. Make sure to express your interest in taking the PSAT your freshman year to your school counselor so they can make sure you are signed up and ready to go. If you need any help preparing, you know where to find us.
Maintain Close Relationships
You will want to have a good relationship with your teachers your freshman year since a positive relationship with your teacher can lead to more letters of recommendation for college applications. Make sure to show up to class on time, do your homework and assignments to the best of your ability, and to always be respectful. It is also important to make good friends as a freshman as they will be alongside you during your high school journey. Friendships can help us to navigate the unknown experiences in high school which will foster a new sense of confidence and self-assurance.
Follow these simple guidelines for a smooth transition from middle school to high school and to help build a strong foundation for the rest of your high school years. If you need some assistance in any aspect of your freshman academia, please contact us, as we are happy to help. Stay tuned for our next blog on Part II of The College Roadmap: Staying Strong Your Sophomore Year.