High School: Preparing for College

Five tips on how to prepare for college.

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Five tips for preparing for college, whilst still in high school:

  1. Understand that going to college will probably make you richer.

There’s an increasing number of people with degrees going into the workplace. To compete, going to college is important. Getting into college is certainly a process, but if you look at the increased earnings of college graduates, it really does end up being worth it from a financial standpoint. Google “how much more do college graduates earn” to see myriad of studies looking at how much more college graduates make. Some use the average or the median earnings, but most all of them come to the conclusion that college grads make more.

Graduates of more prestigious colleges, like Yale and Harvard, make more than graduates of other colleges, but there is a benefit to be found in all of them.

In short: college is a generally worth its cost.

2. How GPA and classwork factors into your college options.

So, for those who want to attend college, GPA is important. Rigorous classes are also important. Top colleges will want to see you’ve taken a lot of AP, IP, and CAPP classes, while almost any college would like to see honors classes. If you can follow the advice in “High School: Studying” and “High School: Assignments”, hopefully, these two past articles will help you do well in high school. I’ve heard one question¬†often: “Is it better to get a B in an Honors class or an A in a regular class?” The answer depends on your circumstances.

If the “honors” class is an AP/IP/CAPP class, you may want to consider taking it even if you might get a B. Colleges like rigorous classes and you may need to load up on some AP classes to get into college. If you have enough AP classes or if you’re having trouble keeping up your GPA, you’d want to choose the regular class. If it will tank your GPA, the extra AP class isn’t worth the risk. Now, if the honors class is NOT an AP/IP/CAPP class, just take the regular one. Most colleges will hardly notice the difference between “Honors English 9” and “English 9”, but you can bet they’ll notice a dip in your GPA. Unless you plan to go into English, it isn’t worth it.

In short: Rigor of classes and GPA go hand in hand, and you’re going to want both.

3. The ACT and SAT: how to prepare for them.

Another element of college applications is your testing score: the ACT and SAT. These are timed tests that hold a lot of weight when it comes to college applications. If there’s an opportunity for you to somehow review or study for this test,¬†take it if you plan on going to college. If you can’t do that, there are plenty of study opportunities and practice tests online. Utilizing these can dramatically increase your score. And always remember that if you don’t do well, you can retake the test. If you don’t do well, take the opportunity to retake the test.

I do have one final tip. If you are short on time and blind guessing, choose the same letter over and over again. It doesn’t matter which one it is, but it maximizes your probability of getting more right. Of course, if you have enough time to try your hand at educated guesses, do that. It can eliminate a lot of answers in either test.

In short: make sure you’re prepared for the ACT/SAT, and when you’re blind guessing always pick the same answer over and over again.

4. Extracurriculars

So, how much do colleges care about extracurriculars? The answer is a lot, but not as much as the standardized tests and GPA. What they’ll notice is “leadership” positions, like being an officer, president, or vice-president of a club. A good idea to get some free points with colleges is to create your own club. It doesn’t have to be huge, or important, and perhaps it can be between you and your friends, but saying “I’m the president of [school name]’s ____ club” can sound very impressive. But it’s a bad idea to pick up a huge number of clubs, as it will burn you out and won’t be really all that impressive.

Extracurriculars are a good idea to show off your dedication as well. If you say that you want to be a psychologist, you’d better be a member of your school’s Psychology Club. It’s one of your only opportunities to show colleges your interests and personality (aside from your essay) and can be the finishing touch to your application.

In short: extracurriculars can be helpful when applying to college if you pick relevant ones or leadership positions.

5. Choosing a College

The final step is choosing a college to attend. This is only something you really need to do come Junior and Senior year. Which college you should attend depends on your grades and aspirations. Even if you don’t think you can get into a school, apply. There’s always a chance you’ll be accepted, so even if a school seems to be a “reach” school, go for it.

When you’re choosing a college, there will be plenty of factors like campus life, weather, location, small school vs. large school, etc. It’s important to remember that those factors should probably all be secondary to the school’s quality. Even if you really appreciate the location and campus of a small, unknown school off the coast, if you got accepted to Stanford, you should probably go to Stanford. This doesn’t just count for big names like Stanford or Harvard or Yale, if one school is significantly more prestigious than another, go to that one. The reason I say this is because I’ve seen many people with a high GPA and ACT score set on going to an obscure school not far away, when if they truly wanted they could head for the Ivy Leagues or somewhere well-known (and therefore more respected by employers). It’s their choice, after all.

In short: apply, even if you think you might not get in, and try to select one of the most “prestigious” schools that accept you.


Up Next Week is tips on Reading Assignments. Don’t miss it!

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