Securing admission to college or university is more difficult now than in the past, and in three years, it will likely be even more challenging. Application and matriculation figures are soaring, and many admission rates are steadily decreasing.
The arduous application process is not just a senior year task, and motivated students often begin to prepare for college or university as early as ninth grade. By sophomore year of high school, students should be angling to improve their chances even more. Here are five suggestions to help you dive into the process during your freshman year.
1. Work to get placed in AP courses
Certain college admissions counselors believe that success in Advanced Placement (AP) classes is the best indicator of success in university. Schools place a great deal of weight on course curriculum and elite colleges will expect you to enroll in all or nearly all AP classes. As a freshman, you likely won’t be permitted to take these courses, but you can often place yourself in a position to enroll as a sophomore or junior. The simplest way to do so is to inquire what you must do to move to this level. At select high schools, there are a set number of seats available, but others are more flexible and will allow students to enroll if they simply ask (assuming your grades meet the minimum requirements).
2. Begin preparing for the ACT/SAT
Your performance in AP classes might be the biggest indicator of success in college, but your ACT/SAT scores are one of the biggest indicators of whether you will be accepted. You won’t sit for these tests until your junior or senior year of high school, but you can start preparing now. These exams can be quite challenging – however, both tests possess rather simple patterns and common questions that they continuously utilize. If you devote significant time now to reviewing, you will develop a keen sense of the common questions and patterns ahead of time – two skills that can greatly improve your eventual result. Study for one to two hours per week during your freshman year and then gradually increase your review time. You’ll be amazed at how much more comfortable you will be with the exam come a year or two later.
3. Become the founder of an extra-curricular activity
Students earn admission points for simply being involved in extra-curricular activities, but starting one on your own could mean so much more. If you are the president or captain of a club, you will earn a significant advantage over students who are just participants. Create a club or sports team during your freshman year about which you are passionate and remain heavily involved throughout your high school career to really impress admissions staff.
4. Enroll in a summer program
Colleges and universities love to host high school students for summer programs, which may span from a day to a month. These opportunities focus on specific areas. They also provide you with an opportunity to meet professors and guidance counselors, explore areas of study, and most importantly, ask the admissions department questions. That can only increase your chances of a positive response come admission season.
5. Complete four years of a foreign language
Foreign language requirements at most schools are lower than this, which is why going this far will ensure you stand out. Becoming fluent (or even proficient) in a second language is an advantageous skill that can enhance your application. Additionally, it is an excellent skill to have in general that will benefit you if you choose to study abroad in college or travel after college as well. Taking four years of a foreign language by the time you enter university will prove that you are thinking about your long-term future – an attractive quality to admissions staff.