Your freshman year of high school is an especially exciting time. You’ve made it past middle school or junior high to the big leagues! Yet, your freshman year can also feel like an especially peculiar time in your academic career. This is because, although middle school or junior high is in your rearview, graduation likely seems a long way off, and you can find yourself asking: Is it too early to start planning for college?
The answer to the above question is this: While you don’t yet need to have your college application letters written or your dorm room posters packed, there are some practical steps you can take at this stage to ensure your success in both the college applications process and in your eventual transition to college life. To start thinking about these processes, here are 7 tips for what you should be doing to prepare for college as a high school freshman.
1. Create an academic roadmap
You might not yet know what you want your college major to be. And that’s OK! In fact, many college freshmen don’t yet know what they want their majors to be, and they only make this decision a year or two years into college—once they’ve completed all required coursework.
However, even without knowing what you want your college major to be, it’s a good idea as a high school freshman to create an “academic roadmap.” This will guide you through your high school studies and help prepare you for your college career. To create your academic roadmap, just ask yourself a few basic questions:
What are your strongest subjects?
You might consider taking Honors or even AP courses in these areas, since AP courses can help boost your GPA and (at some schools) even count toward college credit.
In what subject might you need a bit of extra help?
It might be a good idea to seek a tutor in this area.
What do you most enjoy learning about?
Knowing the answer to this last question is perhaps the most important because it can give you an idea of the field you might be interested in pursuing as a major in college and an eventual career after college. Additionally, knowing this can help you to pursue extracurricular opportunities related to the subject. These extracurriculars will not only be fun, but they will also help your admissions prospects when it does come time to apply to college.
2. Seek expert advice
In general, asking the questions above will help you to create a basic academic roadmap that can assist you in planning for your academic future. However, remember that you’re never alone in this planning. There are many experts out there with whom you can collaborate when creating your roadmap.
Most high schools have just such experts on hand to help you. Trusted teachers are, of course, a great place to start. But don’t forget to also seek the advice of guidance counselors, who are trained to discuss matters of the future with students. These counselors can help to ensure that you are taking the necessary classes required for admission to most colleges and universities. And, when the times comes, they will also be able to assist you with the college applications process. If you have any specific questions (such as if you should take the ACT or the SAT or what to expect when applying for college financial aid), just remember that your high school guidance counselor is your #1 resource for all matters of planning your academic career.
3. Familiarize yourself with the college experience
To be successful in college, it will do you well to know beforehand—to the extent that is possible—just what you’re getting yourself into. And, in part, you can familiarize yourself with the college experience by the courses you take in high school. Most high schools offer college prep courses, such as Honors classes, AP classes, and IB (International Baccalaureate) classes. While each of these class types differs somewhat, they are all similar in that they are more advanced than the average high school course; so, they can give you a good sense of the work load and level that will be expected of you in college.
Outside of your coursework, you can familiarize yourself with the college experience through good old fashioned word-of-mouth. If you have family or older friends who happen to be of college age, ask them about the transition from high school to college. What were their biggest difficulties? What were their happiest surprises? Having these conversations with trusted people who have recently gone through this experience can help you to anticipate and plan for your own college experience well in advance.