Back to School Tips for High School Students

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to School TipsTackling College Admissions, One Grade at a Time

Your next year of high school is around the corner, but don’t fret! IvyWise is here to help you plan for the future, and prepare for what’s to come. Whether you’ll be entering high school for the first time, or already planning for college next year, we have advice to help you start the year strong, and maintain the drive through the fall, winter, and spring.

For Rising Freshmen

Congratulations on the beginning of your high school career! The next four years will have their ups and downs, but with enough organization, determination, and preparation, you can stay on track to meet your personal and academic goals.

  • Draft a four-year course plan. Coming into high school with a four year plan ready to put into action will do wonders to alleviate stress farther down the road. Your interests and strengths will change over the course of high school and your plans will shift accordingly, but that’s okay! Starting off with a sense of direction can keep you focused and on track.
  • Get involved! In general, it’s a good idea to focus your extracurricular activity on only a few projects relevant to your interests that will really let you shine. This is a year to explore. Don’t overwhelm yourself, but try a few clubs you think you might interest you. At the end of the year, revise and edit your commitments, limiting your list to the places you feel to can make the biggest impact, and the projects with the most potential.

For Rising Sophomores

Sophomore year is a great time to solidify your engagements and prepare for what’s around the corner.

  • Translate your interests to initiatives. In Junior year testing, AP’s, and college anxiety start sucking up most of your free time, making it tough to play catch up on the extracurricular front. Take advantage of sophomore year to advance your freshmen commitments to the next level. Assert yourself in clubs and teams to lay groundwork for assuming leadership positions next year. Also start independent projects, both in and out of school. Ideally, you should try to procure an internship or research position to get hands-on, professional experience.
  • Begin test prep. You can hold off on taking the SAT and ACT until next year, but now’s a great time to start studying. Make vocabulary flash cards and take a few sample tests to determine which exam is best for you. Additionally, figure out which SAT Subject Tests you’ll want to take.

For Rising Juniors

Okay, here’s where it can get a little stressful, but don’t worry! You can do it! Follow these tips to lighten your stress and accomplish your goals.

  • Foster relationships with teachers. You’ll want recommendations from the people teaching you this year, so make your class time counts. Participate, seek help from teachers outside of class, and be memorable. Make it clear to the teachers of your favorite subjects that you’re passionate about their class and the material. Get good grades and leave a lasting impression.
  • Stay organized. Junior year is packed tight with standardized tests, demanding coursework, leadership responsibilities, college research, and more. Staying on top of all these commitments will become exceedingly stressful without organization and efficiency. Keep a calendar or agenda, either physical or virtual, and schedule in test prep, homework, clubs, sports, and whatever else occupies your time. Even free time should get penned in to concrete time slots, giving you some breathing room, and ensuring it has a specific end, keeping R&R from bleeding over into the rest of your day.
  • Research schools based on your interests, not rankings. A balanced college list includes a couple of reaches, but also target and likely schools. Rather than building your list off of US News & World Report, look up programs you’re interested in. Think about setting, campus life, and more. Cross-referencing all of these categories will help refine your search to a list of schools you want to visit. This means you should also start planning and taking those trips.

For Rising Seniors

You’re in the homestretch, but it’s not over yet! Now it’s time to finish strong. Senior year and application season can be stressful, but entering with the right attitude and preparation make the process go much easier.

  • Finalize your essays. The Common App goes live Aug. 1. Depending on your school’s start date, this gives you a bit of a head start for your essays before piling schoolwork on top of it. Take advantage of that time to make drafts. Once school does start back up, you’ll have resources available to work through the essays with you. Reach out to your English teachers and peers for edits and suggestions.
  • Ask for recommendations. Go into school knowing who you’ll ask for a recommendation, and try to get to them before your teachers start getting inundated with requests. It’s important to give them plenty of notice and instructions on where to submit the recommendation (i.e., for the Common App, they’ll have to submit via email through the website), along with any important deadlines.

There are many tips and strategies you can try to integrate into your back-to-school routine, but the most important thing is to work hard and stay organized. For those looking for more personalized plans, IvyWise offers programs designed to suit your needs, and guide you through whatever is left of your college admissions process.

Any other words of wisdom? Head to the comments to share your advice!

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