Applying to college can be an exciting, momentous, confusing, stressful, and intimidating time. Your whole future is a question mark, and the decisions you make can affect your happiness and earning potential later on in life.
Many students assume that the college application process really starts junior year--and, in a way, they're right. That's when you really get crackin' with your college research, ACT and SAT prep, and the gathering of documents required for admission. However, that doesn't mean that freshman and sophomore years can be idled away. By taking the time to create a fantastic student profile right from the start of high school, you'll be putting yourself in a great position when you're ready hit the "Submit" button on your applications years down the road.
Here are three things you can do to make sure your freshman year gives you the foundation for a successful high school career:
1. Get to know your guidance or college counselor.
The first thing—and last thing--you should do freshman year (and every year in high school) is meet with your guidance or college counselor. Meet at the start of the year to discuss your classes, and at the end of the year to talk about your grades this year and your classes for the upcoming year.
Your counselor will be your conductor as you ride the high school train. He or she can help you pick out classes, figure out extracurriculars, pick out colleges, discuss your grades, and be an all-around invaluable asset as you embark on your college application career. Your guidance counselor will be as active a participant as you want or need, but it's up to you to foster this relationship in your first year of school. If your school doesn’t have a guidance or college counselor, approach a teacher you feel comfortable with and ask them if they would be your mentor. Having the guidance of an educator will prove to be one of the most essential parts of this whole journey!
In a few years, you will need to ask faculty members for letters of recommendation to submit with your college applications. A letter from a guidance counselor can go a long way, so it's important you start this relationship out right.
2. Make some time for extracurriculars.
You don’t have to be heavily involved in fifteen different groups—in fact, colleges look at superficial participation in many different groups as a negative, preferring instead students who have shown extended commitment and leadership in only two or three student organizations. But the numbers don't matter so much your freshman year, so try new things! Look into athletics, community service, volunteer opportunities—the list is endless! Spend this year figuring out what you like to do; you’ll spend the rest of your high school career paring down your activities and aiming for leadership positions in them.
3. Create a solid academic base.
Focus on challenging yourself academically and keeping your grades up—don’t stress too much about AP, Honors, or IB classes, or leadership positions in extracurriculars. Those will come in junior year. For now, strive for those As, build rapport with your teachers, and get to know your high school self. The best is yet to come!
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