College Prep Craziness
High school used to be divided into four years: 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. These days, it seems as if high school is broken up into two different subsets: Regular high school and college prep. Unfortunately, sometimes these two phases overlap. Students who don’t think about college at all until the 11th grade may find that their college prep experience is exhausting (READ: “8 Reasons Applicants Fail to Get Into The College of Their Choice“). I don’t encourage students to think about one year as simply a preparation for the next, each year should be enjoyed for what it is. However, there are a few things that can make the college prep that occurs in the 11th and 12th grade a little bit easier.
1. Think about college in a general sense
It is not necessary for students to think about the specifics of the exact university that they wish to attend in their sophomore year (with the exception of Ivy League hopefuls) but it is important to think about college in general.
Do you want a big city or a small town?
Do you want a two-year degree or a four-year degree?
A general major, such as communications or business can lead to a number of different career options while a specific major, such as pre-med, will lead to one specific profession. Thinking about being in college as a sophomore can help make certain decisions easier throughout the college prep craziness (READ: “5 Things to do Before You Go Away to College“).
Pick out 5 to 10 colleges or universities that seem interesting and research what you would need to achieve in order to qualify for admission. Knowing a little bit about what your next two years will be like will make them less daunting. For example, would you like to attend a small private school that focuses on community service and personal experience or would you like to attend a large university that stresses the importance of cracking in 1800 on the SAT?
2. Get test prep out of the way
I can’t stress this advice enough. Junior and senior year is an absolutely crazy time to try and squeeze in the SAT; however, this is when 95% of students choose to tackle these exams for the first time. Take an SAT course or arrange for private tutoring this summer after your sophomore year and take the exam the fall of your junior year at the latest. If you are able to take the exam before that then do so. Get it done so you can have some fun.
3. Take one, and only one, AP class
It’s not advisable to attempt to take two or three AP classes your sophomore year. Remember, this is college-level work and most AP teachers will not cut you slack for being in the 10th grade, nor should they. However, taking one AP class can help you prep for the work that you’ll be doing in your junior and senior year. Try to pick a class that you have at least some interest in as it will make the studying less difficult. Some students will have many choices while others will only have two or three depending on the school or district that they attend (READ; “Building Vocabulary: Test Prep Edition“).
4. Get a summer job
Working in retail or food service is a fantastic way to learn discipline, promptness, and the value of a dollar. Students who work as little as 10 hours a week report that they are able to focus on their studies more when the school year starts back up. Many employers hire students as soon as they turn 16 and will train somebody who hasn’t worked in the past. An honest day’s work is a great way to acquire the discipline and concentration needed to survive the college prep craziness that will start the first day of junior year.
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