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College 101

Article Type: Checklist

Yeah, big sophomore. You’ve made it through freshman year, and now you aren’t the newbie. Nice work. Shmoop knows what sophomore year is all about: learner’s permits, feeling cool because you’re in classes with juniors (go you, taking harder classes), and not having to use a map to find your classes on the first day.

While reveling in your newfound wisdom, make sure you’re moving in the right direction for college: what can you do during your sophomore year (besides begging your parents to take the minivan out for a spin)?


  Take the Most Challenging Course Load You Can. Go for Honors Classes. Take AP Classes if you've met all the prerequisites and if they are available. Challenge yourself. Remember, a B in AP Physics will be more impressive than an A+ in Beginner Noodle Making. Unless you are applying to Santa Barbara Noodle College.

  Earn the Best Grades You Can. Grades are important. How Important Are Good Grades? Short answer: super important. Struggling? Let Shmoop help with some handy Study Guides. If you need additional help, try reaching out to your teachers and being more active in class.

Building Yourself

  Think about your Interests and Skills. If you didn’t quite find an activity you loved during freshman year, try a new sport or club.  There’s no better time than now to explore your interests and acquire new skills.

   Try entering in some competitions. Interested in science? Try the Intel Science and Engineering Fair. Interested in Politics? Try joining a local Model United Nations Group. Take a look at Tasty Bits: Competitions for more ideas.

  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. As a sophomore, you may be able to take on some leadership positions. Take on the challenge. When the time comes and you need letters of rec, you want to give teachers every reason to write about how amazing you are.

Standardized Testing

  Take the PSAT in the Spring. Wait, there’s a PSAT? Yes. The PSAT is a great chance for you to test out your standardized test chops before the arrival of the big, bad SAT and ACT. And who know? You might just rock it and qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.

  Consider an SAT Subject Test at the end of the school year. Did you rock the mitochondria in Biology? Is your Spanish excelente? Try an SAT Subject test. What do you have to lose? You just might kill it. Besides, even if the colleges you’re applying to don’t require them, it doesn’t hurt to take them. Check to see if the colleges you’re applying to require certain ones too.

  If you’re super ahead of the game, maybe even consider taking the SAT or ACT at the end of the school year. You can spend some of your summer studying for the exams if you don’t do as well as you hope.

Getting Ready to Apply to College

  Visit Colleges. Take a formal tour. No need to set up an interview with an admissions representative, but go ahead and ask them any questions you might have. Talk to some students and get a feel for a couple of different types of colleges and campuses.

  Get To Know Your School Counselor. If you haven’t done this yet, do it. If you have, do it some more. 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. Teenage hormones making you crazy? 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. Go to camp. Study something you don't have time to do during the school year. If you're in love with science, try conducting your own experiment. If you're passionate about a charity cause, spend the summer volunteering at the local charity organization. Travel to a foreign country and pick up a new language. Find an internship. The point is to look back on your summer and be proud of what you accomplished.

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