Preparing for College: What High School Students Need to Know

According to recent data, 69% of high school graduates plan to attend college once they graduate high school. It’s a different transition from the one you made from middle school to high school.

When you start high school, you don’t have the pressure of knowing what career you want. You can explore various options as you grow. However, as you move into your later years, you’ll need to start thinking about college.

Preparing for college may sound daunting, but mapping out a plan can ease the process for you. Here are some essential college tips you’ll need as you think about your next steps in higher education.

Preparing for College

1. Research Potential Colleges

Whether you’re about to enter high school or are a freshman entering your sophomore year, it’s never too early to start researching colleges. With almost 4,000 colleges in the U.S., you’ll need to start narrowing down your options.

How can you do that? Think about what’s important to you. Do you prefer to go to an academic powerhouse? Is weather a factor you’re considering? Are sports big at that college?

These are some factors that you may consider. However, the most common ones researched by students preparing for college life include:

  • Location
  • Amount of financial aid received
  • If the school’s degree programs match a designated career choice

There may be local colleges in your area that you can research right away. Or you can look online at others around the U.S.

If you want a more in-depth look at a potential college, try to find student-led communities on social media. You’ll learn more about campus life and what to expect once you arrive.

As you research these colleges, ensure that you keep a spreadsheet. It’ll make it easier to compare each school when you’re coming closer to making a decision.

2. Speak To Your Guidance Counselor

In high school, your guidance counselor will be your best friend. They’re a great resource when it comes to preparing high school students for college.

Your guidance counselor will have information about:

  • College fairs
  • Test prep classes
  • College admissions officers hosting interviews
  • Scholarship opportunities

As you can see, there’s plenty to learn from your guidance counselor. But they’re busy individuals, so you’ll need to come prepared with any questions you may have about the college process.

You can also use your guidance counselor for emotional support. Navigating high school, especially your senior year, can be difficult. So ensure to reach out to them if you need assistance.

3. Immerse Yourself In Extra-Curricular Activities

Doing the same thing each day in school can get boring. You roam from class to class, have lunch, and then go home and do homework. But adding extra-curricular activities into the mix can make the years more exciting.

Think about what you’re interested in and see what activities your school offers. Do you like sports? Drama? Or would you rather join multiple clubs?

Although you can’t do everything, ensure that you join as many clubs as possible without overloading your schedule. You want to excel at the activities you choose, and it will be impossible if you’re burnt out.

As you get into your junior and senior years of high school, focus on extra-curricular activities that are important to you. For example, if you’re thinking about a career in politics, see if your school has a debate club.

4. Take Challenging Classes In High School

For the high school curriculum, there are core requirement classes that you need to complete to graduate. However, to better prepare for college, you can take more challenging courses.

Depending on your school, they make offer classes such as:

  • Honors
  • Advanced Placement (AP)
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • Dual-Enrollment

You’ll learn college-level content in these classes while also learning better critical thinking, note-taking, and time management skills.

If your institution offers AP or IB classes with Dual-Enrollment credits, you’ll need to take an exam once the course ends. Once you pass, you’ll be awarded credits for that specific college course.

The amount will vary on the institution. However, you may have the opportunity to get a class waived altogether.

Taking these classes will also show colleges that you chose to challenge yourself academically. But remember, these classes aren’t a requirement.

So if you don’t think you’re up for the work, don’t put yourself through that stress. You can still attend college without having these courses on your transcript.

The National Honor Society

If you’re looking for another way to set yourself apart from your peers academically, you can aim for the National Honor Society. It’s an organization that recognizes high school students for various achievements.

Once you’re enrolled, you’ll have a chance at receiving scholarship money to put towards your college tuition. Follow the link provided to learn more about the National Honors Society requirements.

5. Visit Various Colleges

Try visiting as many colleges as you can throughout high school, even if you’re a freshman. Leaving it to your senior year can be overwhelming, and you don’t want to make a rushed decision.

By visiting various institutions throughout your high school years, you can build a portfolio of what you want in your ideal college. Check out a school’s website and schedule a campus tour to get the most out of the visits.

On these tours, you’ll learn about the institution’s history and other essential information about college life. Also, while on campus, ensure you visit the financial aid office. They can navigate you on the financial aid process and scholarships you can apply for.

6. Take Good Notes

It may not be something that comes to mind immediately, but you’ll need to learn how to take better notes in college. In high school, most students fall into the trap of jotting down what their teacher says word for word.

However, it isn’t the most effective method. Also, most professors talk fast in college and won’t repeat themselves, so you’ll need to figure out are essential points to take down.

To do so, you’ll need to figure out an effective noting taking strategy. There are various methods, such as:

The Outline Method

Outlining is one of the simplest methods to use for good note-taking. When using this method, you focus on several topics that will get discussed.

Under those topics, you create in-depth subpoints relating to the conversation. It’ll keep you from getting overwhelmed since you don’t have to comb through unnecessary text when studying.

Mind Mapping

If you struggle with taking regular notes, you can use mind mapping to organize your thoughts better. It’s a method that helps interlock complex or abstract topics.

The map is a visual aid that helps the individual see how topics are related. You’ll also be able to go into detail on specific issues related to certain subjects.

To use the mind mapping method, start with a general idea in the middle of your page. Then begin branching off that topic with concepts that you can think of.

For example, let’s say your topic was the effects of COVID-19 on society. A few branches that you could connect to that subject are:

  • Lockdowns
  • Travel restrictions
  • Working from home
  • Online shopping
  • Revamped cleaning methods

So now you have a few sub-branches that you can work from. Although the main topic was COVID-19, these sub-topics can provide more detail about how society was affected regarding each idea.

The Cornell Method

The Cornell Method was developed by Cornell University in the 1950s and is still widely used today. You’re still using key points like the outline method, but instead, the page is broken up into three sections.

The narrow column is called the “Cue” section, where you’ll write down important names, dates, events, or questions.

Next is the “Notes” section, where you can expound on the points written under “Cue.” You’ll still use headings when breaking down the main subjects, but use bullet points to summarize when going in-depth.

Finally, in the “Summary” section, you’ll write a brief synopsis of all the information you gathered. You’ll want to make sure it’s simple enough because all the detail is in the previous section.

Writing on Slides

Taking extensive notes can be time-consuming, and sometimes you may not be up to the task. So instead, you can print out your lecture slides and write on them.

Most college lecturers will provide class slides online or hand them out in class. So once you have a physical copy of the slides, you can begin writing notes on them.

It’s an excellent method because it removes the stress of general note-taking. All you need to do is expand on what’s in front of you.

7. Work on College Life Skills

Figuring out where you want to go to college is half the battle when preparing for college. The other half is developing essential life skills to help you survive when you’re not doing coursework.

At college, you’re on your own, so you’re responsible for your life. Things can go awry at so it’s best to be prepared.

Some skills you should be familiar with before attending college include:

  • Cooking basic meals
  • Doing laundry
  • Grocery shopping
  • Money and time management
  • Taking care of your car (Flat tire, oil change, etc.)

Ask family members or mentors to help you develop some of these skills. They’re great to have, but you don’t need to learn them all in one go. But if you need to know something on the fly, you can look at tutorials online.

8. Getting Ready For Standardized Tests

There’s no that the words SAT and ACT create fear in the minds of many high school students, and rightfully so. Colleges significantly consider your scores on these tests before they offer you a place.

However, depending on your college selections, you may only need to take one test. If you can’t decide, you can always opt to take both exams.

There’s no easy way to prepare for these tests. To increase your chances of landing a better score, take challenging courses like those mentioned earlier. You can also enroll in test prep classes designed for each exam.

Aim to take the test by the end of your junior year. That will allow you to send the test scores to colleges at the start of your senior year.

Since these tests are timed, learning time management will be essential. If you don’t do well the first time around, don’t panic.

You can still retake the test. Use your previous results to help you prepare better for the next exam.

9. Applying For Admissions and Scholarships

By the end of your junior year going into your senior year, you should have a fair idea of some colleges you would like to attend. After narrowing down your list of schools, it’s time to apply.

You can better organize your documents by creating a record of approaching deadlines for each institution. Some college applications will have different requirements than others.

For example, some applications give you the option to add a supplemental essay to your file. It’s an additional essay that can be about anything or answering a specific question given to you by the college.

So you’ll need to ensure you carve out time to focus on meeting deadlines for your applications. Also, while applying to colleges, make sure to apply for financial assistance.

On average, it costs about $38,000 a year to go to college. It can be challenging to pay out of pocket, so apply for financial aid.

Financial aid can be a loan you’ll need to pay back, but grants and scholarships are also available. So keep an eye out for opportunities as you’re applying to schools.

Preparing For College Can Be Simple

Most high school students have trouble preparing for college because they don’t know what to expect. However, by following our tips above, you’ll have no problem navigating the transition to college.

To learn more tips about preparing for college in high school, visit our blog for related content.

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About the Author: Alex

Alex Jones is a writer and blogger who expresses ideas and thoughts through writings. He loves to get engaged with the readers who are seeking for informative content on various niches over the internet. He is a featured blogger at various high authority blogs and magazines in which He is sharing research-based content with the vast online community.

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