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What Can Students Do to Prepare for College?

College students in class.
Pieces for chess, a popular extracurricular activity for students preparing for college.
A college admissions application often must include standardized test scores.
Playing sports can help make a student more attractive to colleges.
Volunteering time at a local soup kitchen can look good on a college application.
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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2014
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Students can prepare for college and the college admissions process in a number of ways, some starting well before the application process begins in their junior year of high school. One of the constructive activities that will prepare students for life, as well as help them prepare for college, is to participate in extracurricular activities from a young age. College admissions committees are interested in the whole student, not just academic achievement, so extracurricular activities from athletics, to work, to music, to student government, to community service all serve the extra purpose of helping a child prepare for college.

Extracurricular activities begun young can build an impressive résumé by the time a child reaches the end of high school. Students who learn any skill have not only a non-academic area to present to the college admissions committee, but also may additionally gain the opportunity to teach others, whether coaching children in soccer skills or giving drum lessons.

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Participating in the life of the community is a way for a student to become an involved citizen and begin to understand life beyond the home and the school. A student who works will gain valuable experience participating in the economic life of the community, as well as earning money that may be put towards college expenses. A student who begins some kind of volunteer work young—whether working in a soup kitchen, participating in green-up activities, or volunteering in a nursing home—both has an additional important angle to share with admissions committees and also has an edge in understanding how to make their way in whatever city and state—or country—they end up in for their higher education experience.

Taking the courses required for admission is, of course, an important aspect of what students can do to prepare for college. The standard college preparatory program includes 4 years of English, 3–4 years of math, 3–4 years of laboratory science, 3 or more years of social science or social studies, and study of a foreign language, usually for a minimum of 2 years studying the same language.

In addition, the student’s potential college major may well guide the student to do more if they may wish to major in any areas that have stringent requirements, such as science, pre-med, and engineering. Taking Advanced Placement courses (AP), when they are offered, is considered de rigueur for admissions to some schools. Check college websites for more information about high school course requirements.

Standardized tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and/or American College Testing program (ACT) are often a requirement of the admissions process, so most students will take one, the other, or both as they prepare for college. Taking a practice test, like the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) not only qualifies a student for the National Merit Scholarship, but also provides SAT practice.

Since the admissions essay is important for gaining entry to many colleges, refining his or her writing is another way that a student can prepare for college. Taking an advanced composition course, whether AP or an honors course, may gain the student valuable insights into how to express him- or herself clearly and elegantly, as well as how to write persuasively.

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candyquilt
Post 3

I read an article in the news about a study that was done. They looked at the connections between high school students who took advanced placement courses and received high grades with the likelihood of attending a four year college and completing the degree. They saw that these students have a higher chance of being accepted at a four year college and they are more likely to finish college.

Considering the fact that more than half of college students in the U.S. drop out, that means that high school education and success is an extremely important factor. I don't think that anything can prepare you for college as well as your high school education.

serenesurface
Post 2

This is a great article, it has summed up all of the major points that students need to pay attention to.

I just want to mention the importance of high school grade point average when applying for colleges. All colleges have minimum requirements for both ACT and SAT requirements as well as students' grade point average.

Working hard during high school and keeping your grades up really pays off when it's time to start applying to schools. Sports teams are also good, not just for the resume, but because they require good grades as well.

This also means that, ideally, the preparation for college should start with freshmen year.

fify
Post 1

Looking back at my college preparation during junior and senior year in high school, I wish I had put in more thought about the degree and college I decided to attend, as well as the financial responsibilities that came with it.

I chose a university because of a grant I received and because my brother was attending the same college. However, I was a Liberal Arts and Sciences major, whereas the University excelled in Science and Engineering.

It was also an expensive school and I had to take many student loans which I am trying to pay back now.

I guess, if I could go back, I would have chosen a less expensive school that was known for its LAS degrees. It would have been more appropriate for me.

That's why I think that high school students should also prepare by thinking about what they really want, what they plan to do after getting a college degree and the financial responsibilities that they may be taking on during college.

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