Though your high school years should not be solely focused on preparing for college, many high-achieving high school scholars want to know what early steps they can take to strategize for their college years.
Even taking small steps throughout high school to prepare for college can help you get a head start on eventual application requirements and the skills you’ll need once you begin higher education.
So, while there’s no need to overwhelm yourself, here are some things you can do in high school to start preparing for college. Taking these steps will allow you to feel ready once the time comes and have a sizable advantage during college application season.
Explore your passions outside of school.
Many students enter college undecided about their major or without an idea of their future goals. By exploring your passions outside of school while in high school, you will begin to develop an idea of how you’d like to spend your time in college to prepare for the future you hope to achieve.
Though high school years can be busy, take whatever time you can to discover new interests and explore those interests through extracurricular activities, extra online classes, or summer programs.
Research a new topic that you’re not learning about in high school, and find ways to engage your academic interests outside of the classroom.
Not only will this preparation help when college applications ask about your interests and how you’ve pursued them, but it will also give you a clearer idea of which colleges and programs you’d like to pursue when the time comes.
Take challenging courses in your favorite subjects.
Colleges also look for students who challenge themselves in their areas of interest. So, while you do not need to take advanced courses in every single high school subject, you should look to challenge yourself in fields of study that relate to your current passions and future goals.
Instead of coasting through high school, find ways to push yourself. Colleges will notice, and you will gain more skills in critical thinking and time management by taking on more difficult courses.
The ability to handle academic rigor will serve you well in college, so start preparing while you have a bit more support from family, as well as a more structured high school schedule.
Keep a journal.
While this might seem like a strange way to prepare for college, you should consider keeping a journal throughout your high school years to keep track of your growth, development, and experiences.
You don’t need to be an aspiring writer or have a “Dear Diary” personality to keep a journal. But by jotting down your thoughts as you go through high school, you will have a record of your accomplishments and reflections that will serve you well as you start applying to college.
Once you do start applying, you’ll notice that you will be required to write at least one or two, but often several, college essays. These personal statements ask you to recall major reflections on your life so far, including your volunteer experiences, your academic interests, your extracurricular activities, your greatest lessons, and your dreams for the future.
If you keep a journal, you won’t need to dredge up all of this reflection from memory but will actually have a notebook--or several notebooks--to which you can refer when you want to remember what you’ve been through prior to the end of high school.
Practice time management.
Once you’re in college, you will have to quickly adapt to managing your own schedule and making enough time to study while balancing social and extracurricular activities on and off campus.
You might have internships, become part of student organizations, and volunteer for community service groups.
So, the sooner you can practice time management, the better.
While you’re in high school, instead of relying on your parents, guardians, and teachers to remind you of deadlines and motivate you to get work done, be your own time manager.
Practice keeping a calendar of activities and deadlines and setting small goals for yourself so that you can finish larger projects ahead of time.
The habits you create now will likely follow you into at least your first semester of college, so you might as well start forming healthy time management habits and set yourself up for early collegiate success.
Find ways to serve your community.
Colleges also look for students who positively impact their community and will thus make a positive impact on a college campus and in the future.
If you’re passionate about helping others, start finding ways to serve your community now.
Not only will this effort make you a more competitive college candidate, but you will also begin to develop your passion for contribution that will follow you well into your future.
Start thinking about what local and global issues matter most to you, and do something to help alleviate those issues in your city or town.
This kind of preparation will lead to a better college application, a more mature understanding of the world around you, and a greater sense of gratitude and fulfillment. All of that, and you’ll be helping others thrive as well.
You really can’t go wrong by contributing to your community!
Engage in Networking
If you start networking early by taking part in clubs, a high school honor society like NSHSS, or a volunteer organization, you will have multiple connections with like-minded scholars and mentors prior to your college years.
Not only will you have a network already, but you will also have the skills to continue networking as you enter college. These necessary skills will help you when the time comes to apply for internships and post-graduate positions.
Even by simply keeping these tips in mind as you go through your high school years will help you prepare for your college years.
Once you have these ideas in your mind, you will undoubtedly start to put them into practice, even in small, incremental ways. Have fun in high school, and use the time to start developing into the kind of student and person you want to be in college and beyond!