As you head into your second year of high school, you may be considering what you’ll need to do to prepare for college. Here are some suggestions for making the most of your sophomore year.
Finalize your course schedule–and keep your grades up.
Now is a good time to take challenging courses, including honors and AP-level courses. It’s also a good year to get those required courses on the books. Schedule a meeting with your school’s academic advisor or counselor, and make sure you’re signed up for a curriculum that rounds out those requirements (and also excites you!).
Once the school year begins, commit yourself to keeping your academics up. Regardless of your grades freshman year, a strong academic performance in your sophomore year can be of great benefit when college application time arrives. If your grades freshman year were less than stellar, better grades sophomore year will demonstrate to colleges that you’re able to improve over time. If your grades last year were excellent, keep that momentum going, avoiding any dips in your academic performance.
Consider your extracurricular activities.
Take stock of the extracurricular activities you’re involved in, including things like jobs and significant family responsibilities. Write each activity down, followed by a short description, and keep this list handy as you head into sophomore year; it will grow into your resume in the future.
Consider which activities you’re passionate about and want to continue, and be on the lookout for leadership opportunities related to those pursuits in the next couple of years. If there’s something you’ve been thinking about giving up, now is a good time to let go and apply your energy elsewhere. Likewise, if there’s something you’ve been wanting to try (such as a new sport, hobby, or organization), now’s a great time to go for it!
Think about your summer plans.
Although summer just ended, it’s not too soon to start thinking about next summer–in fact, it’s an excellent idea. The summer after your sophomore year is an important time to get engaged in something meaningful that will show colleges your commitment to personal growth. Many programs like internships, camps, summer classes, and institutes have applications that are due in January and February, so fall is the perfect time to scope out opportunities and prepare to apply (if they accept applications on a rolling basis, it’s better to apply earlier, when there are more spots available). The exception to this rule is for summer job applications, which tend to occur closer to the hiring date.
You may find that planning in advance for next summer eases your mind and allows you to focus fully on your sophomore year. As summer approaches, you’ll enjoy knowing that you have something lined up that will not only help when you’re applying to college, but will enrich your life as well.
Start planning for standardized tests.
Find out when (and if) your school administers the PSAT and PreACT, and register if possible. Both preliminary tests can predict future outcomes on the SAT and ACT, giving you valuable information on areas of strength and weakness. Whether or not you can take the PSAT or PreACT, it’s a very good idea to schedule full-length diagnostic tests for both the SAT and ACT in your sophomore year. You should ideally take these tests under official testing conditions (this will familiarize you with the process so you’ll be more comfortable when it’s time for the real deal). Taking these preliminary tests in your sophomore year will allow you to discover which test best fits your learning style and decide how you’ll study and prepare for the SAT or ACT when the time comes. To start learning about the differences between these tests, see our recent guide here.
Hold off on looking into specific colleges.
While you may be tempted to start setting your sights on particular colleges this year, it’s still a bit too soon, and here’s why. The likelihood that you’ll evolve and change in the next two years is high, and what appeals to you now may be totally different when you start your applications. Instead, do some research into the different types of colleges. What’s the difference between a liberal arts college and a research university? A public college and a private one? Understanding the differences between colleges will help you when you do start looking into colleges in earnest. Consider this year a fact-finding mission. Gather some general information about what kinds of colleges and programs are available so that you have the data at your fingertips when you’re ready to build your college list.
Getting some of the legwork of preparing to apply to college done during your sophomore year will set you up for success next year and save you a great deal of last-minute stress. Think of it as a worthwhile investment in your future peace of mind!
Expert Admissions provides personalized guidance to prepare you to apply to college. Contact us for more information.