Although college application time may seem like a long way off, there are plenty of things you can do in your freshman year to set yourself up for success–both when the time to apply to college comes and for the years in between.
Get to know your counselors.
School guidance counselors are an amazing resource for planning your course schedule and helping you know what to take when. They can help you see the “big picture” of your high school journey and make choices that will let you shine. It’s a great idea to get to know your counselor and establish a rapport now, rather than waiting to come to them when there’s a problem. Schedule a meeting with your counselor and talk with them about your interests and goals; you’ll probably get some great insights on courses to take in high school and build a relationship that will be essential for the next four years.
Find out about course offerings at your school.
If you’re interested in taking AP, Honors, advanced, Pre-AP or College Prep courses, now is a great time to find out if your school offers them. Discuss your strategy for taking these courses with your guidance counselor; some schools have tracking systems that may make it difficult to switch from a regular course to an honors course. Make sure you understand the system your school uses so that you can make informed decisions about your coursework.
Advocate for yourself academically.
The truth is, high school is significantly more challenging than middle school. It’s not uncommon for students to struggle with the transition to a new schedule, workload, and environment. If you find that you’re facing challenges with your coursework once the school year starts, don’t wait to get help. There’s absolutely no shame in seeking tutoring, a supportive study group, or guidance from a teacher or counselor–in fact, getting support is an excellent idea!
The knowledge you’ll gain in your freshman year will form a foundation that you’ll need over the next few years. Also keep in mind that selective colleges will want to see grades from all five core subjects for all four years of high school. The sooner you start establishing a strong academic performance, the better.
Freshman year is a good opportunity to reevaluate your interests and possibly try some new pursuits. Take a look at the activities you’ve participated in during the summer and after school up until this point and decide if you want to continue those activities in high school. If there are new things you’re interested in trying–a new sport, newspaper, yearbook, a school club–give it a shot! It’s fine to try out several activities and see what you’re truly drawn to. Avoid choosing activities solely because you think it will look good for college later on. Instead, seek communities and commitments that genuinely excite you, and think about where you might be able to step up in a leadership role down the road.
Learn more about yourself.
Do you learn more from listening to a podcast than from reading a book? Do you ace standardized tests, or do you prefer group projects where you can bounce ideas off others? There are three scientifically established ways of learning: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (that is, physical or tactile). Knowing how you learn best is a wonderful way to optimize your study habits and thrive in school (and life!). There are plenty of online resources to help you figure out what type of learner you are. You might also consider taking a personality assessment, such as the well-known Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, to help you gain a better understanding of how you relate to others and make important decisions.
Establish healthy habits.
The pressures of high school can be immense, and you’ll be much better equipped to thrive if you’re as physically healthy as you can be. Physical health comes with so many benefits: it’s correlated with increased focus and better decision-making outcomes; according to the World Health Organization, physical health is a crucial factor in mental health for teenagers. So, although pulling all-nighters may be tempting, now is a perfect time to prioritize sleep. Healthy food choices and exercise are also essential. Start exploring what kinds of healthy habits you enjoy now, and you’ll be setting the stage for overall well-being in the years to come.
Focusing on these foundational skills and habits in your freshman year will go a long way toward preparing you to think about more specific college-related questions down the road. Freshman year is too soon to start thinking about specific colleges; your interests and values will likely change dramatically in the next few years. For now, apply your energy to doing your best and finding what you love.
Expert Admissions offers personalized guidance throughout the college admissions process and the years leading up to it. Contact us for more information.