he road to college starts early, even at the beginning of high school. From freshman to senior year, you’ll need a game plan to choose the right classes and maneuver through college exams, applications and deadlines. Stay on the admissions track by following these steps.
Grades are important, but so is the difficulty of the courses you take. Instead of the easy “A,” choose tougher classes. Colleges like to see students who have taken rigorous classes during high school. “The student’s high school curriculum is the most important factor we look at in the admissions process,” says Roz Bolger, director of development at Emory University.
“Good academic performance in a strong curriculum shows the student has been challenged in high school, and that’s good preparation for college.”
Use your freshman year to organize your classes and explore your personal interests:
• Meet with your counselor. Discuss your career goals and the classes you should take. Many selective schools require college preparation classes that include three or four years of coursework. Plan your high school curriculum early to be sure you’re covered.
• Master the basics. Strengthen your reading, writing and vocabulary skills. Improve your typing skills and become familiar with the Internet. Knowing your way around a computer will come in handy throughout high school and college.
• Explore your interests through your classes. Whether it’s chemistry, world literature or calculus, your classes give you a chance to find out what you like. Take classes in a variety of subjects that interest you.
Social Service at the local library or some other community service is very valuablelayout…
Don’t forget about the world beyond the classroom. Colleges like to see students who can balance outside activities and maintain good grades. Extracurricular activities are the icing on the cake, Admissions committees want to see how a student can contribute to the college inside and outside of the classroom.”
• Perform community service or get a part-time job. Extracurricular activities show that you’re a well-rounded individual and you know how to manage your time efficiently.
• Research summer programs. Many colleges offer arts camps and college prep courses during the summer for high school students. These programs are a good way to develop your talents and get your foot in the door with colleges.
Go Above and Beyond
• Do your best in your classes. Remember: Class rank and G.P.A. are key factors in college admissions.
• Take honor-level and advanced placement courses. Enroll in courses at a community college. Your high school transcript will show admission committees you are up to the challenge of a competitive college environment.
Don’t wait till senior year to research schools, college entrance tests and financial aid options:
• Take a “virtual” campus tour on the Internet. Visit the homepages of schools that interest you. Also attend college fairs to meet admission representatives and obtain course catalogs. If possible, plan to visit campuses yourself to get a first hand account of the school’s culture and social life.
• Prepare for college entrance exams. Your scores can determine what scholarships you qualify for and what college you attend. Ask your counselor about services that offer ACT and SAT preparation classes and practice tests. Keep track of the dates and deadlines for the tests.
• Learn about financial aid options. Don’t let the cost of a college education scare you.
Attend financial aid seminars hosted by local schools. Ask community businesses and organizations if they offer college scholarships. You can also search scholarship databases on the Internet like FastWeb to apply for awards that match your interests and career goals.
It’s never too early to prepare for college. And whether you’re headed for a state school or you have dreams of Harvard, a four-year strategy will guide you toward your destination.