Staying focused on college preparation throughout the whole school year

Staying focused on college preparation throughout the whole school year

Erik Bakken, Investigative Editor

High school is your chance to get involved and to prove your skills to colleges; this can be through your course selection, extracurriculars and GPA. Now is your time to start looking into what you’d like to do in terms of classes and clubs, since this will demonstrate to colleges what your interests and strengths are when it comes time to apply. Additionally, now that you’re in high school, your grades will count towards your GPA, another important factor in your college search. Even if the college search process seems far away, your freshman grades each semester have the same value as your grades in your senior year, so keep that in mind.


Getting involved is important for sophomores too, since now that you’ve experienced a year of high school, you can seek out leadership opportunities and greater roles in clubs or sports. Even if you don’t have a leadership position with a title, you can still demonstrate leadership throughout the year and help younger students learn from your experiences as a freshman. Another part of the fall for sophomores to consider is taking the PSAT in October. The PSAT scores you receive as a sophomore will not count for National Merit consideration (qualification for National Merit will not be taken into account until junior year), but taking the PSAT as a sophomore will provide a baseline for how you test on standardized assessments and can help you determine what you need to work on.

Now is your time to do your research on colleges and universities and to figure out what you are looking for in a school and what you want to pursue as a degree. By refining your college search earlier, you can hone in on schools that you want to apply to and visit. This can greatly reduce the cost of your college search, since applying and visiting can get expensive. Also, make sure to consider taking the PSAT in October and ACT throughout the year. As a junior, your PSAT scores will be considered for National Merit status, which comes with a scholarship. It is important that you prepare for the PSAT as soon as possible, since it will likely be one of the first standardized tests you will take this year. Once you’re registered, a practice exam will be available in the guidance office. The PSAT also serves as an indicator for the SAT, which is an accepted exam for many universities.

The college search is ramping up in the fall of senior year, so it is important to make sure that you know deadlines and requirements for the application process. The Common Application opened Aug. 1, and is used by many universities, including UW-Madison for the first time. Finish your essays and personal statement, and secure letters of recommendation from coaches, teachers and advisors as soon as possible. Make sure that you have a definitive list of the colleges that you are applying to, and the requirements of each. Send in SAT and/or ACT scores to the universities that you are definitely applying to if you haven’t already, and secure any additional references or requirements that the program or school might ask for. Lastly, look up scholarship information from schools that you’re applying to, the community, clubs that you’re in, and various other corporations around the area.