Fall Must-Dos for High School Students
Check out what you need to get accomplished during your first semester.
By Kathryn Knight Randolph
August 08, 2016
The start of the school year provides a clean slate – so brush off last year if it wasn’t so stellar or build off of it if it was particularly spectacular.
Either way, you’ve got a few things to get done – so get started now!
High School Freshmen
As you walk through the doors of your new high school, the farthest thing from your mind is most likely stepping foot on a college campus for the first time. But it’s going to happen, and four years goes by pretty fast – just ask the upperclassmen.
In light of that, do just a few things to establish a firm foundation as a high school student. This might be obvious, but work hard and stay attentive during class. The goal for sophomore year is to start honors classes so push yourself and get used to the pace of high school learning sooner rather than later.
Experiment with extracurricular activities. Chances are your high school has way more extracurricular opportunities than your middle school. Take advantage of this and attend informational sessions or inaugural meetings to see if a new club or organization might be of interest.
The more extracurricular activities on your resume, in addition to an awesome GPA, shows colleges that you’re ready for the time management demanded of college students.
High School Sophomores
Last year was a learning experience for you, and you either learned from mistakes or discovered that you’ve got it all figured. This year, capitalize on those lessons learned through participation in class, diligence in homework and commitment to extracurricular activities.
But give equal importance to the elephant in the room this year: the start of standardized testing. While you’re not ready for the SAT or ACT, it’s time to start gearing up with the PSAT, offered on specific national dates, as well as the PLAN, which will be administered by your school on a date specified by the school administration.
These tests can help determine a lot for you, like which is best suited for your college applications. Some students perform better on the SAT than the ACT and vice versa, and these tests are indicative of which will paint you in the best light. In addition to the practice you’ll no doubt do in the classroom, prepare on your own as well, i.e. start taking practice tests now.
High School Juniors
You would think that the senior year would be the most scrutinized during the college admissions process, but you would be wrong about that. Admission officers are really looking at the junior year. After all, when you submit your application as a senior, they only have a few months to look at; whereas the junior year provides a bigger, better picture.
This first semester, focus on the SAT and ACT. Start practicing with sample tests. Read literary classics for reading comprehension and for examples to draw from in your writing prompts. And on that note, write – a lot. The more you write, the better it gets. Journal each day – or just write letters to friends. Either way, practice, practice, practice.
Begin compiling a list of colleges you’re interested in, if you haven’t already (the perfect place to keep your list is right here on Fastweb – check out My Colleges). Throughout the semester, research these schools online, and it’s not too soon to even check out some of these campuses in person.
Also, make sure you have a little variety to your list. Don’t pick five schools that you “might” get into. Pick a school that is a reach for you as well as a school that’s a “sure thing.” Fill in the rest of your list with colleges that fall in between those two.
High School Seniors
Ok, high school juniors have a lot of work to do, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. At this point in the game, you need to give yourself that list-minute boost that enables you to stand out from the rest of the applicants. That means performing better than you ever have in classes and being a proven leader through your extracurricular activities.
Though you’ve done a lot of the foundational work during your high school career, now is the time to shine. Make campus visits to the schools you really love. Show them your high level of interest by sitting in on a class, meeting with an admissions officer and even staying overnight in one of the dorms. Admission officers aren’t just looking at grades and SAT scores at this point; they’re also looking for committed students.
Finally, get organized with your applications. Deadlines occur as soon as October so reach out to teachers for letters of recommendation now. Find essays that accurately reflect your writing style or begin working on a designated college application writing sample. Put the finishing touches on your visual arts portfolio if you have one. Essentially, make sure you have every component, and that it has been looked over with a fine tooth comb to ensure that admission offices are receiving a perfect application from you.
And for everyone out there, regardless of your grade level in high school, begin your scholarship search now! Don’t wait until spring semester of your senior year. There are plenty of scholarships with deadlines in the fall, and remember, it’s never too soon to start your scholarship search.
What else do you have on your to-do list for this fall?
Need money to pay for college?
Every semester, Fastweb helps thousands of students pay for school by matching them to scholarships, grants and awards for which they actually qualify. Sign up today to get started. You'll find scholarships like the Niche $1,000 Back to School Scholarship, and VIP Voice's $5,000 Scholarship.