What does a high school student and a long-distance runner have in common? They must be very focused on certain things in order to reach their goal—the finish line. In the Freshman Year blog, we emphasized that your focus should be on adjusting to a more difficult course load, taking advanced classes, and joining clubs. By your sophomore year of high school, hopefully you have grown accustomed to the rhythm of high school. In your sophomore year, your focus should be aimed at maintaining a good pace. Long-distance runners will often tell you that one of the most important elements in preparing for a race is to consistently train at a steady pace. “Slow and steady wins the race” is a common slogan among long-distance runners which also applies to high school students. This is your first (and only!) time going through high school, so just as in training for a race, the first part of training should be focused on getting used to running, or in the case of high school, you should focus on getting used to and adjusting to high school demands. After you know what to expect, it is a good idea to push yourself a bit, but maintain a steady pace. You never want to exert all of your energy in the first half of the race, and in a similar way in high school, you must focus on the essentials your sophomore year and maintain a good balance in your activities. Some of the common stumbling blocks for sophomore students include: letting grades slip, over-committing, and burning out. In order to ensure that you keep up your “A” game, focus on these action items your sophomore year:
Keep Your Grades Up
It may be tempting to let your grades slip a bit if you did well your freshman year. However, every little assignment is part of your class grade which affects your overall GPA. Every grade that you make in high school will sit on your transcript for review by a college admission board. It is very important to consistently maintain good grades. If there is a particular subject that is difficult for you, be proactive and let us know; we are more than happy to assist you.
Refine Your Study Habits
Hopefully you have developed a routine for studying by now. If you have, spend time studying using your proven method – even for the small assignments. If you have not developed any study habits, or if your study habits have proven unsuccessful, find a new way to study. Ask your friends with good grades how they study, ask a counselor at school for advice, or seek out advice from the experts at The Brain Domain. Remember to study in accordance with your learning style for optimal performance!
Take the PSAT, ACT or SAT
At The Brain Domain, we suggest taking the PSAT your freshman year if you plan to take the SAT. If you took it and scored well, go ahead and take the SAT sometime during your sophomore year. If you have not taken the PSAT yet, now is the time to do so. If you are going the ACT route, take the ACT during your sophomore year. Since the SAT and ACT may be taken multiple times, it is a good idea to take it early in order to find out your strengths and weaknesses and to decrease your test anxiety. If you do not score well your first time taking it, consider working with a tutor at The Brain Domain to increase your score. To find out whether the ACT or the SAT is right for you, click here.
Stay Active in Clubs
Clubs offer a unique chance for leadership, growth, and fun. Staying active in the clubs that you joined as a freshman is a great way to pave the way for future leadership opportunities. Leadership is very important when it comes to building your resume for college applications. Being a member or in a leadership role in a club may help you gain some new skills such as public speaking, marketing, fundraising, or recruiting. Maybe you are not running for an officer position yet; however, it is important to be consistently involved in a club because it shows commitment and responsibility. Colleges like to accept students that they can count on to be active members on campus. Being involved in high school clubs will show the college admissions board that you not only attend classes at school–you also dedicate yourself to getting involved in the community. We recommend to be in either two clubs and a sport or three clubs. Ideally, you would like to obtain an officer position in two clubs your junior and/or senior year. Don’t forget: colleges are looking for leaders! Also, keep in mind that on college applications you will be asked to put the number of hours per week that you participated in the club and/or the total number of hours participated. So although being in clubs that don’t do much may bulk up your resume, you’re just adding quantity, not quality. Colleges want quantity AND quality, so join clubs that are actually involved and will provide you with lots of hours for you applications.
Find ways to volunteer somewhere that you are already active. If the school club you are in has volunteer events, make sure that you go volunteer with the group. If you are part of a church community, seek out volunteering opportunities through the youth group such as helping in a soup kitchen or visiting the elderly at a local nursing home. Love animals? Get involved with your local animal shelter. Enjoy spending time with children? Be a camp counselor or tutor students in elementary and middle school. There are an unlimited amount of volunteer opportunities; it is simply up to you to seek them out. Volunteering is important since it shows that you are thinking about others and willing to lend a hand in the community.
Get a Part-Time Job
This is an optional action item to consider for some families. If you’re highly involved in clubs, maintaining excellent grades, and your family does not require the extra income, it may not be necessary for you to join the workforce. However, if you simply will not join more than one club, are not into sports, and have some extra time on your hands, getting a job may be an excellent idea. Colleges are impressed with students who are able to maintain good grades, be active in the school community, and hold a steady job (emphasis on steady). Having a job shows maturity and commitment–two things colleges are looking for. Since most students are now 16 and obtaining driver’s licenses, holding a job is even easier.
These tips should help you navigate sophomore year and set you up for success in your following high school years. Remember that the key to gaining admission to college is doing your absolute best in all areas of your life. Try to maintain healthy relationships, perform well in school, get involved with your community, and give back. If you would like any guidance on the college admissions process, please drop us a line. Otherwise, stay tuned for the next blog on part III of The College Roadmap: Junior Year.