Myth: My College Preparation Starts Senior Year of High School

College prep starts in the classroom

Flickr user yadem.hayseed

Nope. The college preparation process starts the moment you enter high school as a freshman. From that point on, each grade and test score really matter, as do the specific classes you take and extracurriculars you participate in.

Start Planning Early

This isn’t said to overwhelm you, but rather prepare you so you can make informed decisions and plan accordingly. Every year of high school you should be checking off parts on your college prep checklist. It truly is never to early to prepare for higher education–colleges like to see dedication and forethought.

Believe it or not, the earlier you start preparing for college the easier that preparation is. By starting freshman year, you allow yourself plenty of time to cultivate meaningful experiences, spending time to doing both college research and scholarship hunting, dedicating yourself to two or three extracurriculars over the four years, and not waiting till the last minute to hastily cram everything in, there is a lot to do, after all–take the ACT/SAT/PSAT, discover which colleges you’re interested in, visiting those colleges, scheduling high school classes that fit the requirements for both graduation and entrance into colleges, filling out applications, writing essays, applying for scholarships, filing for financial aid, narrowing down your choices, and finally accepting a school, gathering your dorm gear, and heading out. Whew, it’s exhausting just reading it off, isn’t it? So do yourself a favor and give yourself plenty of time to tackle it all. Because it is way easier to spread it out over four years (and you better use those summer months for all the extra time they’re worth) rather than doing it all last minute.

What You Need to Prepare

Colleges will also ask for your high school transcript, class rank, and likely look at your grades spanning all the way back to freshman year (on occasion, they won’t even take senior grades into account before they make a decision). So you can’t just cruise by and then kick your motivation into gear when senior year comes around. When it comes to the ACT/SAT, you’ll want to take the test multiple times, if you’re able, since retaking the exam tends to earn you a higher score the second (or third or fourth) time around. With a limited number of test dates available every year, you’ll want to capitalize on the extra time by beginning the studying early.

When it comes to extracurricular, colleges prefer seeing two or three activities that you’ve been dedicated to for quite some time. That means you can’t wait until senior year to join up with a sport or club just to impress the admissions officers. Find an activity that you love and are willing to put a lot of time and effort into, that will be your golden ticket extracurricular.

Don’t Wait, Start Today

So, long story short: do not wait until your senior year to start prepping for college. The process should be a four year long journey–after all, your college experience will likely be four years, if not a little longer.

And if you want a neat, handy little cheat sheet to see what kind of preparation you should be doing each year of high school, download our free College Prep Checklist and keep track of all your hard work.

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