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.
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.