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Setting Academic and College Prep Goals

Setting academic and college prep goals now is a great way to get students excited about their college prep and alleviate some of the stress commonly associated with planning for college.

While it may not be time to apply to college yet, starting to think about academic and college prep goals now will make it easier for students to identify solid goals by the time application season rolls around. It will also allow them to relax over any upcoming breaks, rather than stressing about what they need to accomplish before school is back in session.

There are a number of different types of goals that students should consider, including academic prep, test prep, college prep, and even personal aspirations.

Academic Goals

By now, students should start to feel more settled into their classes and more familiar with the materials they are learning. For students who have been struggling with certain coursework, even if there is a slight grade improvement by the end of the semester, it’s important to start planning now for the next semester. What is your goal grade for this course for the year? Do you want to raise your C to a B? Your B to an A? Or maintain your A average? Start thinking about what you need to do to accomplish that academic goal. Is it as simple as creating a more robust study schedule? Seeking help from your teachers? Hiring an outside tutor? Exploring online resources? Visualize what you need to do to accomplish your goal and create a strategy to help you along the way.

Test Prep Goals

Test prep can be daunting for students, especially for freshmen and sophomores who see the SAT and ACT as exams they’re far away from taking. Other students may be unsure about whether or not they even need to sit for an exam, given that so many colleges have temporarily moved to test-optional admissions policies. The reality is that many of these schools may eventually require score submissions by the time younger students are getting ready to apply. And even if they don’t, test-optional doesn’t mean test-blind. A strong SAT or ACT score will only work to a student’s advantage, so it’s important to take the steps needed to set yourself up for success. Start by setting small, manageable test prep goals, so you can alleviate a lot of the stress associated with these college entrance exams and actually get ahead. High school sophomores should also plan to take a full-length SAT and ACT diagnostic in order to determine which test is the best-fit for them in order to plan for their SAT/ACT prep junior year.

For juniors looking toward the SAT or ACT, now is the time to think about which spring test dates students plan to take these exams and how they will prepare. First, think about your goal score. If you’re taking the SAT or ACT for the first time, what score do you wish to achieve and what is realistic based on your diagnostic results? If you’re retaking the SAT or ACT, what do you need to do in order to improve to reach your goal score? Start setting your test prep goals now so you have ample time to identify the best test dates, create a test prep timeline, and seek help from a test prep expert if needed.

College Prep Goals

Academic and test prep goals could be considered “college prep” since grades and test scores are important factors in the application review process. However, there’s more to college prep than the “hard factors” like academics and testing. This also includes setting goals more directly related to college prep. Have you started to research schools for your balanced college list? Are you caught up on your outside reading? How much of an impact are you making in your extracurricular activities? These are all things to consider as you evaluate your college prep goals for the rest of 2021 and beyond. Younger students can start small by setting simple goals like exploring a new activity they’ve been interested in trying. Other manageable goals include creating an outside reading list with the goal of reading one book every two weeks. Or planning to casually visit two or three local college campuses in order to kick off their college search. By taking small steps to kick-start their college prep students are actually getting on track – which will make the college prep process much more manageable as they get closer to actually applying.

For juniors, college prep can seem more pressing, especially as they enter their last semester before the application season starts. Evaluate where you are with your college prep and identify the goals you need to reach before the end of the spring semester. Setting goals like visiting your top-three choice colleges, online or in-person, finalizing your balanced college list, brainstorming two or three essay topics for your personal statement before the summer break, and more are great ways to break down your college prep into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Personal Goals

High school isn’t just about preparing for the college admissions process senior year. While there’s a lot that happens during this time to prepare students for the admissions journey, there’s also a lot of personal growth and reflection that happens during this time. By focusing too much on the end goal of college, students can create a lot more stress for themselves. It’s important that students also strike a balance between their college prep and their personal goals. Take some time to think about what you hope to accomplish for yourself outside of school. Is it to finally achieve a black belt in martial arts? Maybe you want to train for a half marathon. Or read 50 books in one year. Some students might want to achieve other personal goals like redecorating their room, visiting their grandparents more often, or completing training for a job like lifeguarding. No matter what your personal aspirations are, make time for those regardless of how they will impact your college prep.

At IvyWise we work with students in any stage of their college prep in order to help them better identify their goals and navigate the college admissions process. Contact us today for more information on our college counseling services for high school students and download our free College Planning Checklist to help you get on track with your college prep goals!


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