Sophomore year is coming to a close, and you may be thinking you’re “halfway through” high school. While that may be technically true, when you consider that by August 1 of next year you’ll need to start applying to colleges, the end of high school seems much closer.
The grades (and test scores, if you plan right) that you end up with at the close of junior year are what you’ll use when applying to colleges, and your list of schools needs to be finalized before the senior year begins. The following to-do list will help you get there by the end of next summer.
1. Start with the end in mind.
You don’t want to fall in love with a college that won’t prepare you for your future career. Do some career coaching to find out what you are wired to do. There are free coaching options out there, but they are limited, and many lack credibility. We recommend Fit 2 Flourish coaching. As part of your exploration, use data on careers from the BLS and O*Net. Also try job-shadowing those who are working in the fields you consider. You may not have a 100 percent defined path, but you can narrow your focus to ensure you’re looking at the right colleges.
2. Search online.
There’s a wealth of free online resources for researching colleges. Just a few of our favorites are CollegeView’s SuperMatch, the Department of Education’s College Navigator, and the non-profit site College Results.
3. Visit campuses.
Summer can be an odd time to visit as many campuses are practically deserted. Nevertheless, it’s challenging to fit in visits to the many potential colleges, so embark on a few this summer. Going on vacation? Hit some campuses along your drive or near your destination. Attend an event or just stroll through a campus near home. Visiting as many schools as possible will help you find out what fits for you.
4. Prepare for the PSAT…maybe.
LEAP only recommends pre-junior-year PSAT prep for high-scoring sophomores with hopes of being a National. What’s the cut-off score? Typically at least a 175. CollegeBoard indicates the typical increase from 10th to 11th grade is 10.5 points, but LEAP qualifiers gain on average 28.8 points, which results in a select few students able to reach that magic qualifying benchmark each year.
5. Build skills.
If you’ve not yet finished Algebra II, you may not be ready to take the ACT or SAT this fall, but you can build the skills that will later benefit your testing. Get a grammar workbook to complete over the summer. Not independently motivated to do the work? Enlist a tutor to guide and direct. Above all: read, read, read! This will build your endurance, speed, and comprehension, all of which are extremely important on the reading-heavy ACT. If you’re a sub-par writer, hone that skill with writing workshops or tutoring.
6. Build your resume.
LEAP recommends printing our your resume. You’ll impress college admission officers when you take it along on campus visits. There are other benefits to getting a document together. Once you have it on paper, evaluate where the holes are. You’ve got a little over a year to close the gaps. Do you have enough activities or community service? Would a summer job help round out your list? Once you’ve identified the gaps, do something about it.
While it may be tempting to sit by the pool and relax, taking action now will set you up for college selection and admission later.