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College 101

Article Type: Checklist

You made it! High school! This is it: starting your prime teenage years, getting a driver’s license, flirting at those Friday night football games. Wait. You’re a freshman. Forget we said that stuff. Try not to get beaten up in the locker room. Just kidding. High school is great, but in the meantime, you should probably start thinking about what you want to do after your four years in high school. You’ve got lots of choices. You might find a Vocation, go to Community College, or take a GAP Year. Odds are, though, that you’ll end up at a Four-year College, which means it’s time to start planning.

What can you do your freshman year to stay ahead of the pack?

Build Yourself

  Think about your Interests and Skills. What do you enjoy doing on a free afternoon? Look for some local volunteer opportunities to see what interests you. Kick butt in things you excel at. Great practice for the next few decades.

  Build Your Brag Sheet. You should know what this is by now. This sheet will eventually be filled with all the wonderful things you have done, so get started now. Join some clubs, go the extra mile in class, get to know your teachers well. When the time comes for letters of recommendation, you want your teachers lining up to write for you because of your awesomeness. What if your school doesn’t have any clubs you’re interested in? Grab some friends and start your own. Or find a local club you can join.


  Earn the Best Grades You Can. Remember back in middle school when you relaxed knowing colleges probably wouldn’t look at your grades? Play time is over. Struggling? Let Shmoop help with some handy Study Guides.

  Take the Most Challenging Course Load You Can. Go for honors classes. Challenge yourself from the very beginning, but remember that you’ll still be adjusting from middle school, so don’t burden yourself with a heavy course load and become overwhelmed with work. You have three more years ahead of you.


  Visit Local Colleges. You don’t need to take a formal tour right now. No need to meet with an admissions representative. Save that for later. Just walk around and see if you like the general vibe you get. Talk to some students (we know it can be scary). Get a feel for a couple of different types of colleges and campuses -- small, big, private, public. This is the fun part.

  Get To Know Your School Counselor. This person will be there to help you navigate the maze of college applications. Here’s the reality of your school counselor: the vast majority of them are ludicrously overloaded. Some may have to deal with up to a thousand of people just like you. Are you high-maintenance? Multiply you by a thousand. Take this into consideration and be ready to drive your quest for college with the following steps.


  Do Something Constructive with Summer Vacation. OK, so your friends define constructive as sleeping until noon and then playing X-box for hours on end while downing seven bags of Doritos. But there’s little there to go on a resume. Why not work a part-time job? Or, see if you can score an internship.

  Check some books off from the Ultimate Summer Reading List. The point is to look back on your summer and be proud of what you accomplished. If you’re interested to see what the college experience is like, check out Tasty Bits: Summer Programs for a list of summer programs that are academically enriching, allow you the opportunity to meet people with similar interests as you, and even give you the option of experiencing what college is really like.

If this feels like a bit too much, you can try to Make a Plan with Shmoop.

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