- Start your research process early! It will be easier to do the hard work of test preparation when you can start to see why getting into the best school is going to be worth it. Visit college campuses virtually and in-person, attend local college fairs and talk to representatives to get a feel for the options that are out there.
- Spend more time really reflecting on who YOU are and what YOUR interests are. Some students want to rush to immediately look at schools, but this strategy is not as effective as first identifying your own personal preferences, and then matching a school to who you are. Trying to change yourself to fit a school is a losing strategy.
- Focus on your schoolwork, and keep your grades up. Your GPA and strength of your course selection may be the #1 or #2 area that admissions officers look at. Get familiar with what courses are available to you in the coming years of high school, and make sure you keep your GPA up and take any necessary prerequisites. Colleges heavily weigh that you have challenged yourself given your school’s opportunities, and that you’ve done well in the process.
- Maintain good relationships with your teachers and your school counselor. They will be writing your recommendations, and you should think about questions to ask your counselor. Remember that their busy season is in the fall. If you are not yet in 12th grade, make an appointment and spend time getting to know them after application deadlines pass in January. They will be much more likely to welcome a meeting and appreciate that you respect their time when it’s busy.
- Seek out extracurricular activities, leadership opportunities and unique experiences that will help you open up to new hobbies, deepen passions and discover new passions, use your voice and experiment with how you can contribute to a community or special interest group. Do not feel you need to go out and join every sport, performance and student club. Focus on what speaks to you, do the things you care about, and go deeper. Colleges will be able to tell when you are just trying to pad your resume. Do things that are authentically you.
- Begin preparation for the SAT/ACT. The best way to do this is with practice tests of real previous exams, and to take a course and even get a tutor as the time nears. Make sure you are aware of test dates for the SAT and the ACT as well as various requirements for the schools you are interested in applying to. SAT subject tests are best taken the year that you take a particular subject. Many schools now have them optional, but especially for international students, you will benefit from doing well on more tests, so schools have more data points to cross-reference and verify your academic profile.
- Work with a mentor or counselor who knows you well. Exposure to new ideas and new experiences may ignite a spark, open a door, create a new path for a future major or career where there wasn’t one before. Colleges are interested in knowing who you are. To be able to show them who you are, you have to first have a good understanding of that yourself.
Interested in finding out how else you can make sure you stay ahead of the curve and don't come up short when application time comes around? One Sky mentors are just that! We are your eyes, ears and sounding board, and will help to ensure you find success when taking the next big step on your educational journey.