Whether you are starting high school as a 9th grader or as a senior, there are things you can do right now that will prepare you for college. Here are some quick tips that can help you without adding to stress.
High school will be an adjustment, so take it week by week. Take some time to get to know your teachers and fellow students. Make academics your #1 priority, but you also have to have some fun. Find clubs, teams, or activities you would enjoy. Don't think "what will look best for college?" Pick an activity or two based on your own interests. If you get involved with something you genuinely enjoy, you will excel at it, and it will make high school more pleasurable.
Do not start studying for the SAT or ACT! Instead, concentrate on your academics and READ. Doing well in math will prepare you for the math section of the tests. And students who make a habit of reading constantly will do better on the critical reading sections. Cram-memorizing lists of vocabulary words won't help you in the long run. Reading will. Mysteries, science fiction, magazines such as National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, and Time, newspapers -- anything, just READ. (Online counts).
10th grade : Academics are still your first priority. If you have difficulty with a particular subject, don't wait for problems to build up -- ask your teachers for assistance. Maintain your involvement in activities, or if you haven't joined something yet, do so. What about the community where you live? Are there opportunities for volunteerism on the weekends? Reach outside yourself to help others. Oh yes -- READ!
11th grade : This is the year you should get to know your college counselors. Stop by the college office. Find out when the staff begins to have conferences with juniors. Browse through college publications and websites. You will take the PSAT for real this fall and this will give you an idea of how you might do on the SAT, allowing you to concentrate on areas to strengthen. If you are involved in activities, see if there is a leadership position available. If you have not done anything outside of classes, this is the year you MUST get involved, whether in school or in your community. READ!
Senior year: You know that term "senior slack"? Forget it! All grades count, so keep working. Do not wait until the last minute to meet with your college counselor or to ask two teachers if they will write recommendation letters for you. You should do both of these before October 1. If you have not already done so, work on a draft of your "personal statement" and ask your counselor or English teacher to read it. And please remember to say please and thank you to all the people who are going to help you this year! The more you plan in advance, the less stress you will undergo. Have a terrific and successful year!