Going to college is something that many high school students look forward to, but most high school students are less excited about the process of applying to college. Applying to college is an all-encompassing process that involves your academics, interests, and extracurriculars, so it can be a lot to think about. Many students don’t start to think about their college choice until later on in high school, but sometimes it can be nice to start thinking about it as early on as your freshman year of high school.
Is Freshman Year Too Early to Prepare for College Admissions?
Although some people might say that freshman year of high school is way too early to be worrying about college, some aspects of your college choice can be beneficial to start early. Freshman year is not too early to start thinking about your college decision, but freshman year is too early to start letting your life revolve around your college decision.
While freshman year is a great time to start thinking about what you might want to do or start touring some local schools, you have an idea of what to expect, and freshman year is not the time to start writing essays or start taking the SAT or ACT. Remember that you still have time in high school to worry about these things. You don’t want your only high school memories to be about college preparation.
Advice for High School Freshmen About College Admissions
The college admissions process can feel overwhelming and stressful, especially when you are just starting out. Understanding the whole process is an excellent way to help alleviate any potential stress from feeling like you don’t know what’s going to happen next. The best advice for a high school freshman is to start understanding the college application and admission process.
In general, you will be expected to fill out an application about yourself. This could be on the common application or specific to the colleges that you’re applying to. You will need to write at least one essay, but you may have to write a few more supplemental essays depending on the school and program that you are applying to.
Some schools require you to submit test scores from standardized tests, either the ACT or the SAT, but many schools now are switching to a test-optional admissions program. This means that they will take your test scores if you submit them, but the school doesn’t require them. At a test-optional school, you should only submit your test scores if they are good enough to help you out, so you will have to weigh the pros and cons of submitting your test.
There are three general ways that you can apply to college. You can either apply early action, early decision, or general admission. If you apply early action, you apply in the fall and generally find out either late fall or early winter and then get to choose if you accept or not. If you apply early decision, the timeframe is the same as with early action, but the school’s decision is binding. This means that if you are accepted to a school early decision, you will be going there. General admission is what most people do, and you have to wait until spring to hear about your admission decisions.
What Looks Good on College Applications?
Everyone has heard all sorts of things about what looks good on a college application, but as more schools are moving towards a more holistic approach to college acceptance, what looks good has changed. The most important thing is to represent yourself accurately. Make sure that you are true to yourself on your college application.
Some people might try to join every club that their high school offers, but college admissions staff has seen this over and over. What they really like to see is something that makes you stand out. They want to see what makes you excited. This could be a job that you love, a local organization that you volunteer at, or a club at school that you are committed to.
Remember that colleges are looking for various students to make up their incoming class, so trying to be just like someone else is never a good idea. They want you to be you, so don’t worry if you know someone who did more club or got better grades. Just try to focus on what you love to do.
21 College Admission Tips for High School Freshmen
Here are our top 21 college admission tips for high school freshman to think about:
Start touring schools
Touring schools is a great way to start to get a feel for college campuses. This can be super informational about the school, but also about the area that the school is in, which can be a deciding factor for many people. It can be super helpful to tour a variety of types of schools early on to help you figure out what type of school might be the best fit for you.
Come up with some good questions to ask at tours
College tours are a great place to get insider information about the college itself and the college process. College students run college tours, so who better to ask about their college application process than a college student. Asking them about their campus or why they chose that school can also help give you some insight into what attracts other students to this school.
Think critically about what you want out of a college
The best piece of freshman advice we have is to take the time to think critically about what you want out of a college. Are you someone who is going to thrive in a small school where everyone knows one another, or will that feel smothering to you? Will, a big school, overwhelm you or would you love the sense of being anonymous? Taking time to think about what you want out of college can help make sure you go to a school that is a good fit for you.
Start a list of things you want your college to have
Everyone has something that they want their college to have, so start working on your list of things. This could be a café in the library or the ability to study abroad multiple times. Just write down whatever it is that you want to make sure is present in your college experience and make sure to pay attention to if the schools you tour has that or not.
Start a list of things you want your college not to have
On the flip side, some people have specific things that they want their college not to have. This could be an emphasis on athletics or Greek life. If there is something that you don’t want in your college experience, freshman year is a great time to start to think about that.
Don’t overextend yourself in high school
Many people try to be a part of every club and activity in high school, but this only stresses them out more. Make sure that you are involved in high school, but you don’t need to be in 20 clubs to get into college.
Focus on your studies
College is first and foremost a place to learn, so focusing on your studies in high school is a great idea. Freshman year is the first year that your grades start to count towards your college admissions, so make sure to stay on top of your studies. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a straight-A student, but you should make sure that you have consistent grades or that you have an upward trajectory over your high school time.
Dedicate yourself to something
Picking one or two activities that really matter to you and dedicating yourself to them is a great way to show commitment to college admissions councilors. This could be a sport that you love, a club that you are a part of, or a job that you work. The main thing is that you should be involved in something outside of the classroom.
Start developing good study habits
This might seem like an odd college admission tip, but starting to develop good study habits as early as freshman year is a great way to set yourself up for success later on in high school. The college admissions process is stressful, so setting yourself up for success early on is a great way to help mitigate the stress you are likely to feel later on down the line.
Practice studying for exams well ahead of the exam
Studying for exams will be a crucial part of high school, your college admissions process, and college, so learning how to study in advance of the exam is a great skill to develop. Start studying for exams or tests a week or more in advance of the test to help you prevent cramming. Similar to the tip above, this is a great way to set yourself up for success later on.
Learn to take good notes
Learning to take good notes is an acquired skill that will significantly help you throughout high school and college. Starting freshman year is a great way to give yourself enough time to develop this skill and prepare yourself for what will be expected of you later on.
Talk with your family about money
This can be a challenging conversation but understanding you and your family’s budget when it comes to college is essential. This can also help guide your college choice somewhat and let you know if you should be applying for financial aid or any scholarships. Having this conversation early gives you time to plan, which is always nice when it comes to money.
Make a timeline for your college admissions process
Sit down and write out your timeline of what you expect to happen when in your college application process. This can be really helpful later on to ensure that you have stayed on track and are not rushing things at the last minute.
Talk to your school’s college counselor
Most high schools have a college counselor who is there to help you through the college process. One of the best college admission tips for a freshman is to talk with your school’s college counselor and see what advice they have to offer.
Talk to adults you know about their college experiences
Just talking to people, you know about what they liked and didn’t like about their own college experiences is a great way to start to figure out what you might want out of your own college experience. Freshman year is a great time to start asking others about their experience, as this can help shape the way you go about choosing your college.
Talk to adults who work in the field that you’re interested in
Trying to narrow down what field you might potentially work is something that will take time, so starting freshman year can be super nice. This is a great time to talk to people you know in fields you’re interested in to see if you want to work in that field.
Shadow someone through their workday
Shadowing someone is another option for figuring out if a career field is the right fit for you and something you are excited about. It can give you some insight into what an average day in that field looks like, and you have the time to ask about their educational background and what would be expected of you.
Develop good self-care habits
Taking care of yourself is essential to getting through both the college application process and college itself. If you start developing good self-care habits early on, then you will be prepared to handle anything.
Invest in a good study book for the SAT or the ACT
Studying for the ACT or the SAT is not something that you should do right before the test. Get yourself a good study book and start studying and reviewing information way before the test, so you don’t feel rushed.
Look into scholarships
There are tons of scholarships that you can apply to throughout high school, so don’t feel like you have to wait until junior or senior year to start applying. Make a timeline of when scholarships are due so you don’t miss any deadlines.
Work on your writing skills
You will have to write general essays and likely some supplemental essays throughout your college application process, so your writing skills are super necessary. Writing skills are something that takes practice, so this is something that you can start working on early in your high school career.
Wrapping Things Up: 21 College Admission Tips for Freshmen
Freshman year may seem early to start thinking about a college, but there are so many things that you can start freshman year that can help mitigate your stress later on in high school. Remember that your views will likely change throughout high school, so freshman year is an excellent time to start thinking critically about what you want and gathering information about potential schools and career fields. Starting freshman year gives you a good amount of time, so try not to stress too much.