Helpful Tips for High School Students Preparing for College

Transitioning to college is a major milestone that comes with a lot of preparation. High school students put in a significant amount of effort to prepare for the next chapter in their lives. If you’re currently in high school and you’re starting to think about college or you’ve already begun looking, it may seem like an overwhelming process. The guide below provides you with several helpful tips to prepare for college, no matter what grade you’re in!  

Freshman Year 

Sign Up for Extracurricular Activities 

jwu women's volleyball game

Participating in extracurricular activities offers a unique viewpoint for colleges to better understand who you are, what goals you have, and what strengths you offer. These activities can demonstrate your ability to work in a team, that you possess leadership abilities, or you’ve already gained some experience in your desired field.  

You can also learn a lot about yourself by participating in a variety of clubs and sports during your time in high school. Perhaps joining an art club will spark a passion that will segue you into an art school or joining the drama club could open your eyes to a newfound love for theatre. Extracurricular activities will help you develop your strengths and interests which may lead you to start thinking about future careers.  

Take Classes That Will Prepare You for College 

Enrolling in more advanced high school classes such as Honors and AP will get you acclimated for more rigorous college courses. These classes will also sharpen your note-taking, time management, studying, and test-taking skills. College admissions will also see that you’re challenging yourself and getting prepared for college! 

Sophomore Year 

Register for the PSAT 

The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is the practice test for the SAT which can only be taken once per year. Typically, students will take the PSAT in both their sophomore and junior year. This is one of the best ways you can prepare yourself for the SAT test. Once you’ve taken the PSAT you’ll be able to determine areas that you need to improve on for the SAT.  

Browse Colleges Online 

Make a list of what you’re looking for in a college or university. Are you interested in playing any particular sports? Would you prefer a city campus? Is class size important to you? Prior to making a decision about college, it’s important to hone in one what you want from your college experience. Take a look at college costs and explore the differences between traditional four-year colleges and community colleges. By browsing early, you’re relieving yourself of any future stress which will make the decision much easier come senior year. 

Research College Majors 

Consider what you’re interested in and think about whether it’s something you can see yourself doing professionally. Once you’ve narrowed down some potential college majors, browse around to see what schools offer those majors. Look into prerequisites, class size, and read about the various courses you’ll need to take to graduate. Can you see yourself enjoying these classes? Many students switch majors throughout their college experience, but it’s still important to start thinking about areas of interest while in high school.  

 Junior Year 

Apply for an Internship 

intern at Edesia Nutrition in South Kingstown, Rhode Island

Applying for an internship in high school is another excellent way to explore your interests. Your school counselor can discuss opportunities with you, but if you find a business that you’d like to be a part of, try reaching out to see if they have any available internships. Keep in mind that some internships are paid while others are unpaid. You also might find that some internships are offered on weekends only, week nights during the academic year, or weekdays during the summer. Make sure to check before applying and see if any internships offer a flexible schedule.  

Visit a College Fair 

College fairs are a wonderful opportunity for parents and students to learn about several colleges and universities on the same day. Representatives from the various colleges are there to answer questions, so don’t be shy if you have a list of questions! You might just discover that other colleges are a better match than the one you’ve had your eye on. 

Take the SATS 

Some colleges may not require SAT test scores, however, this does not mean you shouldn’t take it. Having a strong score will help make your application stand out from other applicants. Taking the SAT early will allow yourself plenty of time to retake the test, if needed.  

Tour Your Favorite Colleges 

future students touring jwu campus

Once you have a few colleges in mind, attend an open house to take a tour and ask further questions. During the tour you’ll be able to see what life is like on campus, check out dorm rooms, and spend some time navigating the surrounding town or city. The campus may look larger or smaller than you expected, maybe you realize you’re more comfortable in a city, or viewing dorms has cemented your decision to commute to campus. If you aren’t able to attend a tour, see if there are virtual tour options available.  

Senior Year 

Narrow Down Your College List 

After touring campuses and attending college fairs, try to narrow down your college list even further. Choose a couple of match, safety, and reach schools, and if you have time, take a second tour so you can be certain they’re the right fit.  

  • Match school: Your GPA and test scores are about the same as the average accepted student.   
  • Safety school: Your GPA and test scores are higher than the average accepted student at that college or university. This would be a college  you are certain you’d be admitted to. 
  • Reach school: Your GPA and test scores are lower than the average accepted student, however, it is still possible to get accepted.  

If you’re unsure which school is the right fit for you, talk to your counselor to determine which schools are a match, safety, and reach. You can also check The National Center for Education Statistics to explore admissions info and test scores.  

Fill Out Your College Applications 

After determining which colleges you’d like to apply to, it’s time to start filling out your applications. Make sure you thoroughly review your application so there are no spelling errors, incorrect grammar or punctuation. Additionally, double check that you have your letters of recommendation, essays, and other necessary materials required with your application. 

Make a Decision 

Selecting a college is the exciting part! Thoroughly review your acceptance letters and look over the financial aid package. If you’re feeling a bit indecisive, we’ve put together some tips to help you decide: 

  • Re-evaluate the housing options at each college 
  • Consider the tuition, dorm fees, campus dining packages, and textbooks 
  • Which college offered grants and scholarships? 
  • Think about what campus you can see yourself at 
  • Check out each college’s blog, social media accounts and videos to gain perspective from current students 
  • Talk with your guidance counselor to help weigh out all your options 

Johnson & Wales University has two beautiful locations in Charlotte, N.C.. and Providence, R.I. JWU offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in arts and sciences, business, engineering, food innovation, hospitality, nutrition, health and wellness.  View our programs by campus to see if JWU is the right fit for you! 

Explore JWU from Home Apply to JWU