The process of finding the right college can be as exhilarating as it is exhausting, just as any high school competition can be. Find the right fit academically, athletically, socially, and financially. It may sound simple, but I assure you it is not.
I recommend that my clients look at the entire process as though it were a 4-quarter game—9th and 10th grade represent the pre-game stretch; 11th grade is "game time", and 12th grade is the post-game stretch. What quarter of the game are you in? Here's a game plan that can work for you.
Grades 9 & 10 —1st & 2nd Quarter
Just as the pre-game stretch prepares you for competition, your freshman and sophomore years provide the foundation on which your future rests. Thus, I recommend you assume a strong academic course load. All courses you take and grades you earn are recorded on your high school transcript; you can be sure that admissions officers will closely review both the grade and the course name; so steer clear of the proverbial "underwater basket weaving" as a way to gain a higher grade point average. Admissions representatives know all the tricks.
Contact your guidance counselor regularly to design and monitor your 4-year academic plan; as a former counselor myself, I know the value an engaged counselor can bring to your game plan. It is critical that you establish and maintain the highest possible grade point average.Land an athletic scholarship with the help of NCSA.
Keep in mind the ever-important Form 48H—aka, the List of Approved Courses. Each high school identifies courses that have been determined to meet the NCAA's criteria for a core course. Each course is given a certain value upon completion. A course that is divided over a 2-year period may only receive a .67 credit as opposed to the traditional full credit. Refer to www.ncaaclearinghouse.net to see what courses have been approved at your school and determine whether they correspond to what is listed on your official transcript.
In my years of experience, I recommend that kids plan early to take the SAT/ACT exam. Some students take PSAT or PLAN exams as early as their sophomore year. Taking these aptitude tests early on allows students to identify strengths and weaknesses prior to taking the SAT/ACT during their junior year. If you are accelerated in Math or Science, you may want to take the SAT II in Biology & Math IC at the completion of your sophomore year. Why might this be important? Some colleges/universities require that a student take 2-3 SAT II exams as an admissions requirement. Plan to take your SAT II exams soon after your AP test to ensure the highest marks possible.
The high school resume`
A resume` is not just for job hunters; you should establish a resume` and keep it current. Start by highlighting your academic and leadership accolades; add to it regularly, and refine it as your high school career progresses. Consider taking on leadership roles in extra-curricular activities and clubs; admissions officers want to see diversity and well-roundedness in their prospective students. A strong extra-curricular record can be as valuable as your GPA. Use your resume` as a forum to market your athletic success. Use the athletic resume` to record athletic achievements that highlight your leadership ability.
Finally, try to participate in other sports throughout the year, as long as your schedule (and parental patience!) allows. Participating in a variety of sports provides several benefits, including (a) development of complementary skills that benefit your target sport; (b) rest for muscles and joints that are stressed in your target sport; and (c) broader exposure that augments an already impressive athletic resume`.