Ninth Grade: It’s still early to start thinking about college, but it’s never too late start. You still have four years until you finish high school, but now is the time to start considering college or your plans for afterwards, because whatever you decide, you’re going to have to start planning out the next year and following through the years until you finally graduate. Whatever you choose will influence the choice of your classes this year, next year, and the years after. You don’t have to make a definite decision now. Just think about your options and know what they are.
College? University? Community college? Community and then transfer?
Military? Air force? Army?
Drop out? (Let’s hope not)
If your school offers it and you think you can handle it, consider taking your first AP class this year. It will give you an idea of how advanced classes work and if you want to continue taking them.
Tenth Grade: Now here you HAVE to start taking AP courses, at least one if you are even remotely interested in going to college after high school. This year is also the year that college admissions start paying attention to. Therefore, keep you grades up or bring them up. Basically, start caring this year. I also suggest start your scholarship search. You also need to start planning out what AP and advanced classes you might want to take next year, because junior year is crucial.
College admissions also look at your extracurricular activities, not just your academics. Start volunteering somewhere. If you start early and keep at it for several years, it gives the impression, whether genuine or not, of dedication. It also gives you something to write about in your personal statements for those college applications.
Eleventh Grade: This is the year where you HAVE to or will be forced to buckle down. I don’t want to scare anyone, but brace yourselves. Some say that junior year was their hardest year academically in high school, but for me, it was the most fun.
It will be difficult because this is the year you really want to impress those college admissions. Challenge yourself and take those advanced and honors classes. Make sure you are taking a few AP classes too. Whatever classes you take, make sure that you keep your GPA up. Impress them with your extracurricular activities too by running for officer positions for your schools orgs and clubs. Join new ones or start new ones.
Apply for scholarships! There are so many out there for juniors. They want to know that you are already planning for senior year so that you can get into that college of your dreams. Don’t shy away from the small awards either. Anything will help as fee increases don’t look like they’re going to slow down any time soon.
To add to this list, start making friends with your counselor and a few of your teachers. Many scholarship applications will ask for teacher recommendations. Befriend teachers in the classes you have the best grades. Start going to your counselor regularly too so that they start to learn your face and who you are as a person. They will have to sign scholarship forms too, especially those that need GPA verification.
It might seem a little early, but the summer before you senior year, start brainstorming things you could write about in your personal statements for college applications. List your strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, goals, and examples of them. If you can, get the prompts from your senior friends who just applied. Some schools never change their prompts. Start researching on the schools you want to apply to and make a list of your priority schools and your dream schools. Also make a list of their qualities that you could put into your statement. Show them that you did you research. A little bit of flattery doesn’t hurt either. Make sure you know when their applications come out. And don’t forget! It’s good to start now, although it’s early, because senior year, you want to leave room for fun!
Twelfth Grade: Hold on! You’re not quite done. Remember that calendar you made this past summer with those application dates for the colleges you’re going to apply to? Keep that close by. Turn in your applications early. It doesn’t look good when you turn them in last minute. It just shows that you are a procrastinator. Even if you are, don’t tell them that. Most, if not all, colleges will put out their applications during the fall. Keep your eyes peeled. By spring they’ll tell you if you got in and will give you until a certain date to make your decision.
And remember those teachers you sucked up to and made friends with and found out that they’re actually cool? Ask them to review your statements. They are your resources. This is what they are being paid to do. Don’t be shy.
Don’t forget about those scholarships. This year is crucial for those. This is your last year as a high school student to get free money.
Maintain your GPA. Don’t mess up now. Colleges can easily revoke your admission if you start slipping. Don’t risk all your hard work.
Now have fun and good luck!