Sophomore year is coming to a close. Students are thinking they are “half-way through” high school. While that may be true, when you factor in that by August 1 of the following summer going into your senior year you’ll be ready to apply to college, students suddenly realize it’s time to LEAP forward with college selection.
Whatever the grades are at the end of the junior year (and for most test scores – if you plan right!), that is what you’ll apply to college with and that list of colleges needs to be finalized before the senior year begins. To get there by the end of next summer, LEAP suggests you launch your search full force this summer with the following to-do list.
1. Start with the end in mind. You don’t want to fall in love with a college that can’t prepare you for your future career. Do some career coaching to find out what you are wired to do. There are lots of free options out there, but they are very limited and many lack reliability and validity. We recommend Fit 2 Flourish coaching. As part of your exploration, use data on careers from the BLS and O’Net. Try job shadowing or talking to those who are working in the fields you consider. You may not have a 100% defined path, but you should be to a more narrow focus, so you are looking at the right colleges.
2. Search online. There are a wealth of free resources on the web to gather information on the thousands of good colleges you may want to consider. Just a few of our favorites are Collegeview’s SuperMatch, the Department of Education’s College Navigator, and the non-profit site College Results.
3. Visit campuses. Summer can be an odd time to visit as most campuses are deserted or only have a limited number of students on campus, many of whom may be high school students enrolled in summer programs. Nonetheless, it’s challenging to fit in visits to the many potential colleges, so embark on a few this summer. Going on vacation? Hit some campuses along your drive or near your destination. Attend an event or just stroll through a campus near home. All of these will help you in starting to establish what fits for you.
4. Prepare for the PSAT? LEAP only recommends high scoring sophomores prep for their junior year PSAT with the hopes of being a National Merit Semifinalist. What’s that cut-off score? Typically at least a 175 tenth grade selection index. Collegeboard indicates the typical 10th to 11th grade increase is 10.5 points. LEAP qualifiers gain on average 28.8 points getting one or more students each year to that magic qualifying benchmark.
5. Build skills. If you’ve not yet finished algebra 2, you aren’t likely ready to take the ACT or SAT this fall, but you can build the skills that will later benefit your testing. Get a grammar workbook to complete over the summer. Not independently motivated to do the work? Enlist a tutor to guide and direct. Read, read, read! This will build your endurance, speed and comprehension all of which are extremely important on the ACT which is heavy on reading. Poor writer? Hone your craft with writing workshops or tutoring.
6. Build your resume. LEAP recommends putting your resume on paper – make a word document. You’ll impress some college admission officers when you take it along on your future college visits. There are also other future benefits to getting a document together. Once you have it on paper, evaluate where the holes are. You’ve got a little over a year to close the gaps. Do you have enough activities or community service? Would a summer job help round out your list? Once you’ve identified the gaps, do something about it.
While it may be tempting to sit by the pool and relax, taking action now will set you up for college selection and admission later.