The college selection and application process is a journey that starts during your early high school years. Picking a college is going to be the biggest decision you will most probably make in your young lifetime, so you want to give it its due diligence. As a sophomore in high school, there is plenty you can be doing now to make the application process smoother and more enjoyable. And as the saying goes, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Here at Signature College Counseling, we have put together a checklist just for students at this point in their high school careers in hopes that you pay attention and put in the effort to begin this journey. You will be incredibly thankful 18 months from now that you did all of this when your friends are scrambling just before their senior year, way behind in starting their journey.
Your 10th Grade To-Do List
1. Start to think about what you want in your college experience – socially, academically and emotionally
This is the foundation of your college journey and without giving it your due diligence, early on, starting now during your sophomore year, the results can be disastrous. Our blog on What to Look For When Searching for Colleges is a great reference to use when tackling this checklist item.
2. Speak with your parents about how your college education will be financed
Are you fortunate enough where your parents will fund your education in its entirety and money is no issue? A rare occurrence. Do you have financial boundaries of $20K – $30K and won’t qualify for financial aid? Then you will be looking for generous colleges that will provide you with merit aid opportunities, where you are most probably in the upper end of their application pool. Will your family qualify for financial aid and, if so, how much? These are all important factors when deciding on which colleges you should consider. To dive deeper into these checklist topics, read our blogs Which Colleges Offer the Best Merit Scholarships and How Much Financial Aid Can I Get For College.
3. Keep up your grades!
You don’t want regrets! You want to be able to look yourself in the mirror on May 1st of your senior year, the deadline for when you have to make the decision on which college you are going to attend, and say that you did everything you could in your college journey. The fact of the matter is that the first thing college admissions officers look at when they begin to review your application package is your transcript. It is the best indication of who you are as a student. Ensuring that you do your work and put the effort in to ensure that you do the very best you can, is paramount.
4. Participate in extracurricular activities
This doesn’t mean you have to do 25 activities, each for a limited time and only for a few hours. I always say, do what you enjoy and you will do more of it. If you love playing soccer, think about being a youth soccer league referee or an assistant coach. If you enjoy writing, join your high school’s newspaper. If you play the saxophone, maybe join a jazz band, volunteer in your community to play music at your local nursing home or teach private lessons to a younger saxophonist. Read our blog How to Make an Activities Resume for College Applications to help understand how to document each of your activities.
5. Plan out your college visits
Virtually research colleges, before you plan your visits, so you can sift through the schools and take off of your list those that you don’t meet your needs. Read our blog How To Research For Colleges Online.
6. Visit colleges
To gain a full understanding of what a college is like and whether or not you feel it is a good fit for you, there is nothing like visiting a college campus. Make sure you schedule an information session and tour on the college’s web site so you have reserved your spot. Use our Campus Visit Checklist, which is phone and tablet ready, to be sure you look beyond the architectural buildings and beautiful landscaping, digging below the surface to fully understand if that college works for you.
7. Take your PSAT’s, if your high school offers this, as well as your PACT’s if that is available as well
Even though you may not have been taught all of the material on the test, it will provide insight into the format and types of questions. There is no downside to this at all, only plenty of upside.
Key College Planning Takeaway for Sophomores
You can see that there is plenty of work to be done on your college journey during your sophomore year. Refer to the checklist often to make sure you are staying on target. Don’t miss the opportunity to make this happen. It will allow you to be proactive vs. reactive in this very important and life-changing journey.
Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.
Contact us at email@example.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone and by email.