As summer comes to an end, we urge you to squeeze everything you can out of the remaining days! Quickly approaching is a new academic year, a time for high school students to get serious. And it’s not just seniors who should be thinking ahead to college, but freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, too. As college counselors, we know that every year counts. If college is your goal, you need to get the grades and scores, and reach the right levels in your extracurricular activities and community service to stand out in your applications.
Here are International College Counselors’ top tips to help start off the school year right:
- Evaluate all courses and teachers. It’s a delicate balance: you want to be sufficiently challenged, but not overwhelmed. Grades are arguably the most important factor in college admissions (in addition to strength of course load). You don’t want to be in over your head halfway through the year, so take the time now, before school starts, to go over the courses you have chosen, switch teachers if necessary and possible, and decide if the schedule you have picked is right for you.
- Stay organized. Learning how to stay on top of assignments, due dates, and other activities and responsibilities will only benefit you in the long run. Life can get stressful, and one of the easiest ways to keep from getting stressed is to keep everything organized. Use a calendar (on your phone or the old-fashioned kind) or planner. Write notes and reminders to yourself and keep them either on your phone or in a visible location such as on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror. Develop a system that works for you.
- Commit to working hard. It’s worth repeating, so we’ll say it again: grades count in the college admissions process. Big time. Make a commitment to yourself to work hard. Complete assignments and homework on time. Stay on top of your study plan. If help is needed, don’t be afraid to reach out to your teacher or a tutor; seek help before falling behind.
- Get involved in clubs, activities, sports, etc. While a new school year, especially as a freshman, can be intimidating, it’s a great time to start exploring your interests. Join a new club or activity! Meet new people! Get involved! If you didn’t like what you were doing last year, try something new. You’ll never know unless you try! If your school does not have in-person extracurriculars this year, do your best to get involved virtually. Attend the Zoom meetings. Sign up for the email list. The goal is to find something you like to do and work your way to a leadership position.
- Develop a unique skill or hobby. Make it your mission to get really good at something you are interested in. Set aside time for it each week. Become an expert on plant-based nutrition or take up knitting. Learn to make sushi, start a Podcast, or conquer the stock market. Better yet, seek out internships or a mentor in your field.
- Explore and apply for scholarships. Scholarships are available for students in all grades of high school. Try fastweb.com and scholarships.com to start. Research scholarship opportunities, apply to them, and don’t miss the deadlines. The International College Counselors Annual Scholarship for 9th-11th graders will start accepting applications for its 2021-22 scholarship contest in October.
- Become a voracious reader to build a prodigious vocabulary. To do well on standardized tests like the PSAT, ACT and SAT, you need a good vocabulary and strong reading comprehension skills. It’s easier to build your vocabulary slowly and over time than it is to cram it in at the last minute. Consult your local library, the New York Times Book Review, the Amazon Best Sellers list, or Goodreads. If you are able, sign up for an online book club that will send you a new book each month based on your interests. Or subscribe to a magazine in your area of interest. Just read!
- Make smart decisions on social media. You’ve heard it before, but we’ll tell you again: don’t put anything on the Internet that’s embarrassing or even potentially embarrassing. Don’t be racist, sexist, or stupid. College admissions officers have been known to deny and/or rescind admissions offers based on controversial and offensive posts. We hear about kids every year who lost their chances at the college of their choice because of something they posted. Here is a story of Harvard College admits who learned the hard way. Think before you post.
- Make good life decisions. Don’t text and drive, or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Underage drinking and illegal drug use are serious offenses. One dumb mistake can ruin your life—or end it. In the same vein, do not get into a car with people who have been drinking or using drugs. If you are ever in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, call a trusted adult and remove yourself from the situation immediately.
- Maintain a positive attitude and take care of yourself. The last school year was difficult for almost everyone. You have a chance to start anew. Positivity helps with personal relationships and towards getting things done. Practice gratitude, journal, set aside time to relax. While there are many things to do to prepare yourself for college, don’t forget the most important thing is to take care of yourself.
If you need help navigating the college admissions process, call us at International College Counselors. Need help on writing college essays or high school papers? Contact our sister company, Edit the Work. We’re here for you.
For more information on starting the year off right or managing the college admissions process, visit http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 1-954-414-9986.
About International College Counselors
- To University and Beyond: Launch your career in high gear – NEW!
- From Public School to the Ivy League: How to get into a top schoo without top dollar resources
- International Admissions: How to get accepted to U.S. colleges