Planning + Timing + Preparation
Sophomore year is the time for awareness and planning about the college admissions process, SAT/ACT standardized tests and prep, high school class selection (including academic, honors, AP and dual enrollment) and solidifying GPA.
Knowing what is expected and how to accomplish all of it in the next three years relieves stress later in high school.
Students do not need to decide on majors and universities at this point, but college visits are helpful, as is work experience and a variety of extra-curricular activities.
Introduction to the requirements of SAT/ACT testing also is crucial at this point. Test prep is recommended and this year is a great time to increase skills related to grammar, reading and data comprehension, essay writing and math.
GPA for college consideration (especially true for early admission) is based on the first three years of high school, so classes and grades matter. Course load and difficulty increases with each grade, so sophomore year is the ideal time to boost GPA while solidifying good study and organizational habits and skills.
Junior year lives up to its reputation as high school's most challenging. Consistent test prep is a must before taking multiple SAT/ACT tests. So is a challenging curriculum, including AP classes and accompanying year-end tests. Grades are crucial because this is the year to build and improve on the last two years' GPA. Make a sustained and serious effort now and senior year becomes far more manageable.
Standardized testing involves certain skills, strategies and knowledge, so experts recommend individual or group classes to prepare for the SAT or ACT. Both are offered throughout the year and both are accepted by most colleges and universities. Students take these test multiple times to improve scores.
College fairs and and in-person visits with parents also are essential now as are summer jobs and internships in the student's field of interest. Juniors should be aware of abilities and interests that they could pursue in college.
Active involvement in school, clubs, organizations, athletics and the community (volunteerism) also is encouraged to demonstrate an ability to balance demands and participation requirements.
Senior year can be a relaxed pleasure or a frantic nightmare, depending on the amount of planning and initiative from previous years. The goal is to be organized enough to have solid grades and test scores ready to include in college applications and essays -- which should be done and ready to submit early in the first semester. Second semester can then be devoted to calm grade maintenance and scholarship applications.
The summer between junior and senior years is an important one in terms of organization for a smooth senior year. Many schools release essay prompts early to facilitate work on the applications, which is much easier to accomplish when there are no academics distractions. The last of the college visits and interviews should happen now as well as any SAT/ACT test prep not done previously.
Remember, too, that high-school counselors are inundated with requests for transcripts and recommendations, so starting in July or August is beneficial.
If grades and scores need to be increased, standard admission usually opens at the beginning of the second semester.