Should you be “worried” about college now, as a (incoming) high school freshman? No, you should definitely not be worried. Do not let college loom over your high school career like some big, angry, dark cloud. And definitely do not let getting into college color all of your high school decisions.
Now, all that being said...
Even though it’s early—and even though you should focus on enjoying and doing well in high school instead of turning yourself into a college-ready clone—I highly recommend thinking about college. Just keeping it in the back of your mind.
Why? Because you have a huge advantage over your older peers right now: you have time. Four years of high school will fly by, but if you keep college in the back of your mind, you can make smart decisions all along the way. And four years of smart decisions add up to one super prepared college applicant. Smart decisions like…
- Taking the most challenging high school classes you can (this will be important to college admission officers later on)
- Working hard and doing as well as you can in those classes (your future self will be so grateful for your nice GPA, and—let me tell you—it's a lot easier to earn a decent cumulative GPA if you start early than it is to turn around a lagging GPA second semester junior year)
- Getting involved in extracurricular activities you truly care about (and sticking with them, because when it comes to high school activities, quality is better than quantity)
- Keeping a simple record of your activities and accomplishments (what you did and when, so they’re easy to remember in the future)
- Being aware of the subjects and hobbies that make you happiest (perhaps they have the potential to be a college major or career?)
- Looking for part-time jobs, volunteer positions, and maybe even internships in those areas that interest you (here’s why)
- Thinking about where your college funds are coming from (sit down with your parents or guardians to see what they have planned, and maybe even start saving your own hard-earned cash)
No one is saying you need to start your college search as an incoming freshman in high school. In fact, that’s probably a bad idea, because you’re going to learn, grow, and change a lot in the coming years, and what you want in a college as a freshman will almost certainly change by the time you’re a senior. But you also don't want to wake up the first day of senior year and remember, “Oh, right, I need to do that whole college search thing now…WHY DID I WAIT THIS LONG AND WHY DIDN'T I TRY HARDER.” (Trust me, I’ve been there.)
Just remember: when colleges are looking at your application packet, they’re really looking at your whole high school record. Everything you do throughout high school builds to the applicant you’ll be fall of senior year.
Also, keep in mind that you may even be encouraged—or required—by your high school to start keeping an official record of your activities and accomplishments starting freshman year anyway, so you have a résumé ready to rock when college search and application time rolls around for real.
One more thing! The same stuff that will help you in your college search later on—a strong class schedule, a nice GPA, activities you're passionate about—will also help you in your search for scholarships. So there's that.
TL;DR: As a freshman in high school, you just need to focus on being the best you you can be. Do what you want to do. Learn what you want to learn. Work hard. Make mistakes. Have as much fun as possible. Read. If you do that, you will become the kind of student any college would want.
PS When the time comes to really dig into your college search, CollegeXpress has got your back. We have tons of advice for when it's actually time to start your college search, plus an amazing college finder tool.
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