How can I prepare myself for college as a high school student?


Malik Mulder

Lafayette student researching Harvard University on her Chromebook

A big part of your college preparation is your high school experience — and it really matters. Believe it or not, you are actively setting yourself up for college as soon as you start your freshman year. That’s why it’s important that you’re actively trying to prepare yourself for college as much as you can, even in small ways. Here are five tips on what you can do to get ready for college:

Keep your grades high
One of the most important parts of your college application is your grades, and yes, even 9th grade counts. Make sure you keep your grades relatively high and if you’re planning on applying to selective colleges, you should shoot for mostly A’s and VERY few C’s. I know remote learning was pretty brutal for many people, but most college applications give you a chance to share your experience with COVID and how it impacted your learning. Nonetheless, make sure you’re doing your best in all your classes because grades are a huge factor in the application process.

Once you start freshman year, you should start thinking about ACT and SAT prep. It’s good to take the ACT or SAT multiple times throughout your high school career so that you can get used to the tests. And in Kentucky, 10th and 11th graders are given the ACT without cost. You may have heard that more and more colleges nowadays are putting less focus on the ACT/SAT and more on grades and extracurricular activities. But the ACT/SAT is still really important for scholarships and really selective colleges. The PSAT(practice SAT) is also important for programs like the National Scholars Honor Society and Governor’s Scholars Program. I would also check individual colleges that you’re interested in because some only require you to send either your ACT or SAT score and others require both or neither.

Community Service
Another part of your college application, many scholarship applications, and even school club requirements is community service. Colleges like to see that you are making an impact in your community so make sure you’re contributing in some way throughout your high school career. Maybe visit a nursing home, work concessions stands, or babysit for someone you know. You can also find some way to blend your community service with something that interests you a lot or has to do with your potential college major. For example, I want to play piano in college, and from my resume, I have a clear passion for piano. So a lot of my community service hours are me playing piano at a nursing home. You’re gonna want to do something like that so that they can also get an idea for your hobbies and also see that you’re doing something for your community.

Extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities are hobbies, clubs, and activities that you do. This can be in or outside of school. This is a really underrated part of your application that people don’t focus on. Extracurriculars are what tell colleges who you are. They want to know your passions, hobbies, and interests. They also want to see that you are a leader and have defined, consistent, interests in things. Make sure to include in your college resume all your long-term clubs and/or commitments because that’s what’s going to stand out the most. Colleges really like to see consistency. But this doesn’t mean to leave out any clubs or organizations you joined for only a year. The more on your resume, the better.

Start looking at colleges
This may seem obvious but a good way to prepare for college is to actually look at them. Go on college visits, look up the best colleges for the major/career you want, research the financial costs of all the colleges you’re interested in, etc. Doing these things will ensure that the college you choose is the best fit for you. You don’t wanna get to a college and realize that you hate the cold or that they don’t have any good programs for what you’re interested in. Complete a thorough search of all your college options and research about them.

Also, if you’re not a senior, look at specific colleges you’re interested in and their course requirements to graduate. That way, you can take those AP classes in high school and not have to spend thousands of dollars on those classes in college.

You have four years to make your college application look good. Which may seem like a lot of time, but it flies by fast. You want to spend a good bit of it doing things outside of school and cultivating passions that you have. Don’t take this time for granted because when college applications roll around you’re gonna wish you went to that charity event or joined that club.