College Preparation in 10th Grade

In the 10th grade you still have plenty of time until college, but you should always be thinking about the big picture. What you do now will have an impact on where you end up going to college. It's a good time to start thinking about high school in terms of what comes next and where you want to go.

There is a great deal you can do in the 10th grade to better prepare yourself for college. In the process, you will become a better student. You will not only build up your high school resume, but you'll be setting yourself up for success in higher education.

Keep Your Grades Up

There are so many different elements that go into your college application, such as extracurricular activities, that it can be easy to forget grades are the absolute most important thing. No matter what else you undertake, it should never come at the expense of your grades.

Many of your 10th grade classes will have a higher workload than you're used to. It's important to manage your time well and learn to prioritize the different activities in your life. Chances are, you will only get busier and busier as high school goes on.

Don't worry if you get the occasional bad grade. Unless you have your sights set on the Ivy League, you don't need to stress over some B's and C's. But what you should do is focus on improving in those classes/subjects. Get feedback from your teachers sooner than later, and talk to a parent, mentor or other adult about a class you're struggling with.

Take Challenging Classes

Not only do you want to get good grades, you want to get them in challenging classes. Straight A's in the most basic classes will only get you so far in higher education. Take some honors classes and, if you're school offers them, AP and IB classes. Good grades in these classes will really stand out on your college application.

In fact, many college admissions departments will ignore grades in certain elective and non-academic classes, such as physical education music, drama and woodshop. They will look beyond your GPA and evaluate how much you challenged yourself and how much you succeeded.

Explore Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities are the best way to strengthen your college resume. But they can be even more than that. What begins as a semester of Drama can lead to a lifelong passion for theater. High school is all about finding out what you love and what you're good at, and extracurricular activities are a great way to explore that.

Some students have trouble finding something that clicks with them. If so, look beyond what's offered through your school. Search for clubs, organizations or volunteer opportunities in your community. Or create your own group, whether it be a rock band or a book club.

Other students take on too many extracurricular activities and get overwhelmed. There is such a tremendous variety of sports, clubs and other activities in high school these days. That is why time management is so crucial to your success.

Instead of dabbling in everything that sparks your interest, invest yourself in a few things. Even if you only have one major activity outside of school, colleges like to see that you have committed yourself to something and deepened your experience.

Foreign Language

Every college admissions officer will be looking for foreign language proficiency. It demonstrates that you are capable of a high level of cognitive thinking and communication-not to mention that you can learn something that is difficult for anyone over the age of 6.

It is vitally important that you pick a language and stick with it. Colleges are looking for proficiency, and that usually takes two years or more. If you skip around from language to language, it will just look like you're non-committal.

Other than certain elite universities, most colleges only require two years of high school foreign language. But if you want to get into a good school, you should try to take more. Three years or more will demonstrate that you're dedicated and academically engaged.

If you're already fluent in a language, you may be able to demonstrate proficiency with an AP exam. Most colleges will recognize an AP score of 4 or 5. Studying a second foreign language for your high school requirement is also a good idea.

Take the PSAT or SAT II

Some students never take the PSAT, and most who do take it junior year, when it can qualify you for a National Merit Scholarship. But you have nothing to lose by taking a practice run in October of your sophomore year. It won't go on your academic record, but it will give you an idea of where you stand. As you begin researching colleges, you will know how you stack up to their average incoming freshmen.

If there is a subject or subjects you excel in, you may want to take the SAT II exams, also known as SAT subject tests. These are standardized multiple-choice exams that are specific to a single subject, such as literature, history, biology or a foreign language. These are not requiredbolster, but many students take them to bolster their college applications.

Begin Researching Colleges

Students who start their college search now, before the pressure begins mounting, are usually grateful they did so. You don't need to get too serious. Just do some online research about schools that intrigue you, for whatever reason.

As you do your research, keep a few things about yourself in mind. What types of subjects are you really interested in? Are you drawn to reading, writing and communication, or more technical fields involving math and science? Do you see yourself at a big research university or a small liberal arts college? Urban or rural? Home or away? You don't have to have the answers now, just begin asking the questions.

If possible, visit some college campuses. You can start with local universities, state colleges or even community colleges. If you're traveling, take the opportunity to spend an hour or two at a local campus. Most colleges also host online virtual tours that can give you a flavor of what they have to offer.

Common Application

The Common Application is used by hundreds of colleges and universities, including many of the larger ones in the country. You can use the Common Application to get a better idea of what colleges are looking for in students.

Log onto to find the application. Look it over and learn what the requirements are. What does this application ask? How would you answer? Knowing what needs to eventually go into your college applications will help you plan ahead to make sure you're covering all your bases.

Make the Most of Your Summer

After a long and stressful school year, it is tempting to spend the summer kicking back. But ambitious students use the summer to do something worthwhile.

There's no prescription; you can pursue anything that will add to your experience as a young adult. It could be a job or a class, a recreation adventure or a trip abroad. You may want to volunteer in your community or start a project with friends. Whatever it is, think of it in terms of personal growth.

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