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Setting your college self up for success as a high schooler

Setting your college self up for success as a high schooler

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You can lay the groundwork for a successful college experience long before you arrive on campus. In fact, a few steps in high school can make the transition much easier. Here are some ways high school students can set themselves up for success in college.

Make sure the classes you’re taking in high school will have the payoff you’re looking for

I struggled balancing this in high school. I wanted to challenge myself by taking difficult classes, but unfortunately never got college credit. I’m so grateful I started taking concurrent and dual enrollment classes when I did, but wish I would’ve started sooner. Oftentimes, the classes offered through an actual college have both a lighter course load as well as an easier credit transfer process than the high school equivalencies. If you are hoping to graduate high school with as many college credits as possible in the most efficient way, sometimes it’s best to look for these classes through your future institution.

However, dual or concurrent enrollment classes are not for everyone. It’s so important to look into the college you’re interested in and make sure the college-equivalency courses you are planning to take will transfer. Sometimes this means going beyond your high school teachers or counselors, and reaching out to your future college’s representatives and advisors. Your learning is your own, so do what is best for you and your future. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and look for answers in multiple places.


ractice for your standardized tests

Standardized tests are the worst, and every high schooler is no doubt tired of hearing about them. Regardless, they’re what we’re stuck with until we can find a better way of measuring future academic success. No matter how big of a pit in your stomach you get from hearing the words ACT or SAT, you must accept that these tests will play a pivotal role in your college future, and do what you can to play their game.

Between my junior and senior year of high school, I jumped eight points on my math ACT alone, bringing my overall cumulative score up five points along the way. When my junior friends ask for ACT advice, I suggest they take as many ACT practice tests as they can. If you have two or three sections you feel confident in, you can make life a bit easier by focusing on the weaker ones. It truly is a game, and you only learn the rules and tricks by playing often. Go to your tutoring center or order practice books online, and take a practice test as often as you can — the last two months or so leading up to my final ACT test, I was taking a practice test every week or so.

Remember, these tests do not define your intelligence. A higher score rarely equates to a truly smarter individual, but rather someone whose brain is already wired to crack the ACT/SAT code. Just because this comes naturally to someone else doesn’t mean that it can’t come to you through practice. Pick a target score and work towards it. It will open so many college and scholarship opportunities.

Stay involved in high school activities, but don’t over commit yourself.

Arguably more important than having a perfect GPA is being able to show scholarship donors and colleges that you are a well-rounded, hardworking and involved person. Honor societies, service-based clubs, athletics and artistic groups are all great organizations to involve yourself in, even if you only have a year or so left of high school. The more activities you do, the more impressive your resume.

However, there’s no need to stress yourself out; high school and college are both meant to be fun! It’s more important to put time into what you love and enjoy than spreading yourself too thin. At the very least, participate in a few groups. If you want to and can handle doing more, do it, but never commit yourself to more things than you’re able to do well.

Focus on your unweighted GPA

While it’s great to be able to say you took hard classes on resumes and applications, the GPA you acquire from these classes will rarely be asked for. My weighted GPA was well over a 4.0, but this did nothing for me when scholarships asked me specifically for my unweighted GPA. Go for classes you know you can get an A in — even if they’re easier — rather than counting on weighted classes to counterbalance a B or C in a tougher class.

All in all, it’s important to first look into the colleges you’re going to and what GPAs those colleges or scholarships will accept. Keep this in mind as you’re picking classes, and remember that your hard work won’t always pay off in the way you hope if you’re not careful about it.

Have fun

Arguably more important than GPA or resume-builders is enjoying these four year of your life. While you must find a way to balance your social life and responsibilities, remember there is so much to experience that you will never have the opportunity to again. There’s so many obviously exciting parts of high school, but it’s the small things you’ll miss most, like walking to a certain class with your best friend or joking around with your favorite teachers. Appreciate these small moments.

Nobody talks much about how difficult of a transition it can be from high school to college, parting ways with all your friends and everything you’ve really ever known. Rest assured that these good times do not end in high school. Like high school, college is what you make of it. Make sure you spend your high school years having all the fun you can because nothing will ever quite be the same. Still, there are still many good times waiting to be had in college, and you’re going to want to make sure you’re prepared for them.


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