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10 TIPS FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TO GET INTO COLLEGE
GPA: Get good grades and maintain a good GPA throughout high school. Many colleges have a minimum GPA requirement and you’ll want to shoot for above that to be a strong applicant. Take challenging courses (especially AP and Honors courses). Maintaining a strong GPA with difficult courses shows colleges that you’re prepared for tough coursework.
Your Transcript: By the time your senior year starts, you want your transcript to reflect what your academic interests are. For example, if you’re a science person hoping to study biology in college, then take as many science and math classes as you can. If you’re interested in journalism, take more reading, writing, and history classes. Keep in mind this is easier/harder to do depending on the classes your school offers, so do your best despite your school’s limitations.
High School Student Organizations: Participate in clubs and sports that interest you. However, you want to be very careful that you don’t overextend yourself and become a “jack of all trades” and/or lose too much sleep. Colleges are looking for students that are very passionate about their interests and work hard for the organizations they care about. Avoid being the student that joins every club at school. Stick with around 2 or 3 clubs and sports you care about for as many years as you can to demonstrate consistency and commitment. College applications will often ask you to write about your experiences in your school organizations and the amount time you spent with them.
Leadership: Take a leadership position in clubs/sports to prove your leadership, responsibility and organizational skills. The work you do as a leader will give you substance to write about in application essays and will look great on your resumé. Don’t take on too positions many though, because then you won’t be able to dedicate yourself entirely to each organization.
Volunteering Outside of School: Find an organization or two that you like to volunteer with, and volunteer with them regularly. Use the weekends and summers to maximize the number of hours spent volunteering. For example, the Common Application will ask you how many hours per month you spend volunteering each year and with what groups, so it will look good if you spend numerous hours with the same organization over a number years.
Summer Time: Use your summers wisely. This is a great time to add to your resumé. Apply to join summer internship or activity programs and do a lot of volunteering. Read an extra book or two to improve your reading and writing skills (which will help with testing in the future too).
Searching for the right college: Use websites like Big Future - College Board or Niche to find colleges that match your interests. Spend time researching the colleges that you might be interested in. Take a look at their web pages and see what type of student the colleges are looking for. Also, use your gut to reflect on what colleges fit you best and might help you fulfill your career choice (if you have one already, it’s okay if you don’t).
Counselors: Talk to high school counselors and higher education staff at your school! Counselors and staff offer a wealth of information that many high school students do not utilize. Their guidance will help you navigate your high school in the most effective way, find scholarships, make a list of colleges, and more. Meeting with them regularly, whether in formal meetings after school or small chats in their office during lunch, can prove to be very helpful and will definitely help keep you on track.
Standardized Testing: Prepare for the SAT/ACT. Standardized testing is only one part of your entire application, but some schools won’t even consider your application if your test scores are too low. Purchasing a practice book, like a College Board SAT Prep book, can really help. Practicing every night for the weeks leading up to your test will help build your confidence and can dramatically impact your scores. Keep an eye out for test practice sessions your school might hold or sessions outside your school that your school recommends. Consistently reading on your own can also help with vocabulary and reading skills, which definitely comes in handy.
Application Essays: Start your application essays early! Your personal statement is supposed to be the best piece of writing you have ever created and your best expression of who you are. Write this over several days and ask different people to look over it to ensure you have no grammatical errors and that your writing is clear, coherent, and impactful.
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