So much of being a successful student requires thinking about time. Where you need to be, and for how long, what you need to do, and how much time it will take, or is it worth that much time? Or, when you should start something, finish something, plan something, or stop something. Time can feel, at times, like something that controls your life. There are some ways, you can take back some feeling of control, to feel organized, not rushed, and less stressed: if you plan, you can figure out what to do and when, and probably do that task better than if you did not plan. But, planning takes discipline to make the plan, and discipline to follow the plan. This comes back to mindset. How you manage your time could reflect a way you want to live your life, and express to yourself, who you are want want to be. So, let’s think about time in the context of college planning, and when to do what. Here is a grade by grade highlight of major steps you need to consider.
Beginning the college prep process as a sophomore will give you an idea of what areas you need to improve in and get you thinking about what you might want to study in college. But if starting 11th or 12th grade, not to worry: this information is relevant for all of you:
- Make sure you take the PSAT in October if you can. Your scores will provide valuable feedback about current academic skills.
- Use free resources like CollegeBoard once your scores are available and link your results to Khan Academy—it will recommend free online lessons to address areas of needed improvement.
- Discuss your possible career interests. Reach out to people in these fields to find out what a typical day on the job is like.
- Begin a one-page resume to document your accomplishments and skills. You will need this information for your college applications next year. If your resume looks thin, consider what extracurricular activities you could pursue that are interesting to you.
- Compile a list of colleges that you, your parents, and your guidance counselor feel are worth considering based on US News and if your school has it, Naviance, along with important information such as the schools’ admission requirements.
- Consider taking summer pre-college classes at a college to explore subjects of interest and get an initial understanding of campus life. This experience may also give an experience for what it’s like to compete against a broader range of students. Plus, if you do well in these courses, it can enhance your college application.
- Consider doing paid or volunteer work in a field of interest over the summer. Instead of doing a random job, try to pick things that are interesting to you. So many powerful experiences in life that are transformative start with interest, build with skill, and become something special in time.
In your 11th grade, you will likely take tests in the spring like the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and possibly AP, will visit colleges, and will start your application. Build on the momentum from your 10th grade, and really focus on your grades. 11th and 12th grade grades matter. A lot.
In your 12th grade, if you are planning to take a standardized test for a 2nd or, if you must, 3rd time, remember that starting in September, you will enter a time warp where things move fast, but in slow motion. Tasks that used to take minutes could take hours, and you will have many competing deadlines. The sooner you start, the more you spread tasks out, the more likely you will have less stress and do better on those tasks.
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