Originally Posted: Apr 10, 2017
Last Updated: Aug 4, 2020
It’s always a good idea to be thinking about your college applications. Even if you're a freshman or sophomore in high school, there are a lot of things you can do that will pay off immensely in the long run. Beefing up your high school résumé, getting involved in groups and taking on leadership positions, and honing your study and writing skills are all things you can work on now to help get your feet off the ground! Read on to see what else you can do to make sure your college applications are as strong as they can be come senior year.
1. Get involved in extracurricular activities
Not only are extracurriculars fun, they look phenomenal on college applications. Plus, there are endless options. Do you want to have a more active role in your school? Participating in student government not only ensures that you help plan all of the awesome events that go on, but it will help showcase your leadership skills to colleges. Volunteering in your community is a spectacular way to feel good and serve others while impressing admission boards. Really, if there is anything you love, it’s almost guaranteed there will be some sort of activity to help you simultaneously enjoy yourself and boost your résumé.
2. Study for the PSAT/SAT/ACT
These tests are a pretty big part of college admission, so studying for them is crucial. In some cases, it may be the final decision between two students in a college admission decision. Not only that, but you might be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship depending on your PSAT score. (And we all know scholarships are a huge help!) Get a feel for standardized testing by taking practice tests and checking out books, apps, websites, and other resources to help you study. (A lot of online test prep resources are free!)
3. Look for scholarships
Speaking of scholarships, it's never too early to start hunting for opportunities to save money on college. There are so many options available for all high school students, not just juniors and seniors. Many companies offer essay competitions or have random drawings, and websites like CollegeXpress will send you regular emails informing you of upcoming scholarship deadlines. One quick tip when searching for scholarships is to narrow down your search options to fit your interests. It makes the process a ton more fun!
Related: Scholarship Search Best Practices
4. Practice writing college essays
One of the toughest parts about applying to colleges is the admission essay. A simple five-paragraph paper is fine and dandy, but there are going to be a lot of papers just like that. Colleges are looking for students who stand out, so use your essay to show your individuality. Many books and websites have examples of prompts and responses and offer tips on how to shine through your writing.
5. Schedule campus visits
College is a big deal. You spend four years of your life there, learning and making memories. Therefore, you need to find a school that feels perfect. Scheduling visits will give you an early glimpse of campus life and gives you a better feel of what you are looking for. It seriously makes it easier to pick schools when filling out applications.
There you have it...five little tricks to help you get a head start on your college applications now so you can stand out later. Let’s hope they help! Still feeling lost? You can find even more application advice in our College Admission section!