Most students associate Junior and Senior year with college prep, but your Sophomore year is just as important. Here are HelloCollege’s best tips for getting the most out of your Sophomore year – and making the rest of your high school career less bumpy and more successful. Check out our infographic here:HC Sophomore Timeline
If you can, meet with your school counselor at the beginning of the school year. They might not reach out to you to schedule a meeting (especially in larger schools, where it’s common for students to only meet with their academic advisor during their senior year). But if you can, arrange to talk with them early in the year. Establish a relationship with them; they can offer great college admissions help. They’re a great person to have on your team.
Research and apply for summer programs for the upcoming break (Feb-Apr).
After your freshman year, what you do during your summers off becomes more and more important. Your summer activities can be academic, or they might be tailored to your specific interests. What matters is that you’re doing something that fits your particular niche, either because it’s relevant to your academic future or to your future career. See if your high school offers summer classes. You could also look for a local summer job, community service, or internships. It’s all about bettering yourself and building an identity that will look great on your college applications.
Take a practice SAT and ACT (without studying first).
This will give you a good baseline sense of where you’re at as a test-taker and give you an idea of what to study for when you take the SAT or ACT during your Junior year. If you do well, you might even qualify for some scholarship money, so you definitely want to give it a try!
Choose rigorous, balanced Junior year classes aligned with your expected college major and career aspirations.
Remember, now’s not the time to slack. The classes you take throughout your entire high school career will say a lot about you, especially if you are applying for Highly Selective colleges or universities. Make sure your transcript tells a story by taking the most rigorous career-related courses that you believe you’ll succeed in. For example, if you want to attend MIT and majoring in Engineering, admissions officers will expect you to have taken AP or Honors math and science courses.
Develop a standardized test plan.
Developing a study plan that includes a timeline, making a list of what prep materials you’ll need. The Official SAT Study Guide and The Official ACT Prep Guide are your best sources for practice tests, but other publishers’ study guides will do in a pinch.
Develop a college budget.
A college degree is more expensive than ever. Gone are the days when prospective students could apply to the schools of their dreams without factoring in cost. Have an honest talk with your parents or guardians about how much they can contribute to your education, how much you can reasonably expect to earn to help put yourself through college, and how much additional funding you’ll need to fill in the gap. Now’s also the time to look into your financial aid options to get familiar with how that system works.
Explore possible majors and careers.
By now, you may have an idea of what you want to be when you grow up, or at least what subjects you’re interested in. But choosing a major and a career is a lot bigger than you might realize. There are fields of study and career paths closely related to your interests that you may never have heard of. Do some research, ask the adults in your life for their input, and make a list of potential paths for yourself.
Read, read, and read some more.
The more you read, the more you know. And we’re not just talking about the kind of literature your English teachers have you reading (although that’s great too, especially if you’re planning on pursuing a literature-related degree).
Anything related to your interests and college plans is fantastic. Reading will increase your knowledge in your chosen subject, expand your worldview, and will definitely come in handy down the road. You’ll also pick up new vocabulary and grammar conventions that will help you perform well on standardized tests and improve your writing along the way. It’s a little like free essay help.
Schedule and make college visits.
If you’ve never been on a college campus, it can be hard to know what kind of college experience you want. College visits and tours give you the chance to talk to real students (and sometimes staff and faculty) about their experiences. By actually setting foot on a real-life campus, you’ll get to feel the vibes of each campus and gain an idea of where you might fit in and feel comfortable.
Try to tour a variety of campuses – large and small, public and private – and definitely hit the ones you’re most interested in, if possible. If you’re interested in any colleges where an in-person visit isn’t feasible (like if you’re applying internationally), scour the website for information and look for college fairs and info sessions to get as close as you can to visiting the real thing.
Attend college fairs.
This is a great way to learn more about colleges you’re interested in, especially if you can’t visit all the schools on your list in person. College fairs can also expand your horizons and give you a chance to learn about colleges you may not have been considering before. You’ll get to meet with representatives from the colleges and get answers to more specific questions you might have that aren’t answered on tours or on the college’s website.
Develop your Stand Out Factor by volunteering, shadowing professionals, participating in extracurricular activities working a part-time job, and attending enrichment programs.
Your Sophomore year is an ideal time to carve out your academic identity with real-world experience. Look for opportunities to deepen your skills and expand your worldview.
Making the most of your Sophomore year is a fantastic way to prepare for your academic future and prepare for the college application process while making the last two years of high school much less stressful.
If you are interested in learning more about the college admissions process, or about college life in general, check out more of our blogs and resources here at HelloCollege. We believe that preparing for university shouldn’t be scary, and we are here to help guide you or your student through the process every step of the way.