In this article, CollegeAdvisor.com admissions expert Zoe Edington shares tips on how to prepare for college during your sophomore year of high school. For more guidance on the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.
1. Create/Review your Four-Year Plan
If you did not create a four-year plan as a freshman, make sure you do so as a sophomore. It will be your guide throughout high school.
Your plan should include courses that you want to take and how you plan to qualify for them. For instance, if you want to take an advanced calculus course during your senior year, you need to take prerequisite math courses at the beginning of high school.
Your plan should also include extracurricular activities such as clubs, sports teams, jobs, etc. Colleges like to see that students are committed to their passions and have worked to gain experience throughout the years. For example, if you are considering being the freshman representative on the student council, you may consider becoming student body president as a senior.
This does not mean that you need to stay involved with the same activities throughout your four years. You should feel free to try out anything that interests you. However, you should also show some perseverance and dedication to at least one activity outside of your academics.
2. Meet with Your Counselor at the Beginning of the School Year
On larger campuses, it is not uncommon for students to wait until their senior year to meet their academic counselor. However, I would suggest meeting with them at least once every school year to make sure that you are on track with your goals.
Academic counselors can play a huge role in assisting you with your four-year plan. They can answer questions about how to prepare for your dream college, help you choose courses, and recommend how you can take advantage of everything that your high school has to offer. Meeting with your academic counselor early in the school year can be especially beneficial because they can advise you on how to start the term, and they are usually not as busy with other students.
Some younger students may be hesitant to reach out to their academic counselor or feel like they are bothering them. It is important to remember that advising you is part of their job. They want you to succeed and will do everything in their power to help you, but before they can do that, you need to help yourself first.
3. Sign up for a personal college advising service
Sophomore year can be a great time to start working with a personal advisor. A personalized college advisor such as one of CollegeAdvisor.com’s Admissions Experts can meet with you one-on-one in order to help you choose your classes, plan out your activities, and manage your time.
Further down the line, a college advisor can help you craft an application that stands out—the earlier and better you get to know your advisor, the more they can help your personality shine in your essays. Visit CollegeAdvisor.com to be matched with a personal Admissions Expert today!
4. Focus on Your Academics
Freshman year is for you to adjust to the high school curriculum and learn to navigate your new environment, but sophomore year is when you need to get serious. This year does not matter as much as your junior year, but colleges like to see an upward trend in your grades and academic rigor. The best way that you can start improving your academic record is to find a study/work routine that is best for you.
Figuring out best study practices may seem trivial, but they determine whether or not students retain information and truly understand the material that they are taught in school. Your teachers may recommend certain study methods such as flash cards, study guides, and group sessions, but only you will know which one works for you. If you can figure out which one that is during your second year of high school and apply it to all of your courses, you will be one step closer to being prepared for college.
If you discover that you are still struggling with coursework, feel free to reach out to your teachers to see if they offer tutoring or office hours. Some students might not like the idea of needing to spend extra time reviewing material, but it is better to start getting help earlier rather than wait until your grades start to slip or you are completely lost in the class. Another advantage of getting one-on-one help from teachers is that they will be able to learn more about you as an individual, which may beneficial later if you need to submit letters of recommendation as part of your college applications.
5. Visit College Campuses
It can be difficult to think about the type of college experience that you want if you have never been in a college environment. Visiting colleges, touring campuses, and talking with students can give you insights into schools that cannot otherwise be easily accessed.
If your high school does not offer field trips to tour colleges, you can search online for public college tours organized by the admissions offices at various schools. As someone who toured many campuses during high school, I can say that these tours gave me the opportunity to learn about the unique traditions and expectations that the schools had for their students. They also allowed me to visualize myself as a student walking around the campus.
In times like these when visiting schools is not very feasible, I would suggest browsing their website for virtual tours and seeing if there is a way to speak with a current student virtually.
6. Go to College Fairs
College fairs are another great way to learn about different schools and get your questions answered by representatives. If you are not sure which schools you want to have on your list, then I would recommend attending a college fair because you can visit different booths and learn about a wide variety of schools at a single event.
It may seem a little overwhelming, but by listening to the representatives talk about different aspects of their schools—their history, the most popular majors, student demographics, their sports rankings, etc.—you may learn which characteristics matter the most to you and how you can become a good candidate for the schools that were present.
7. Look into Summer Programs Before Your Junior Year
After your freshman year, the summers between the school years become more important. These are usually three months in which you are not enrolled in courses, so colleges are interested to know how you spent your free time.
Maybe you do decide to take additional courses through your high school, or maybe you find a local summer job/internship to gain experience and earn money.
You may want to consider participating in a summer high school program at a college. Colleges offer these programs so that high school students can become more familiar with the campuses and can explore an area of interest in more depth than they otherwise could. Through these programs, younger students can also learn to be independent in a college environment.
Pre-college summer programs can take a variety of forms, but they typically involve students studying a subject and participating in a project throughout the summer. When I was 15 years old, I participated in one of these programs at the University of Oxford. My classes were journalism (this was my main class, or “major” as we called it) and fantastic literature (my “minor”), and through them I learned how to conduct interviews, relay information to a wide audience in a non-biased way, and contemplate how works of fantasy have affected the lives of millions of people. By the end of this program, I had learned subjects that I never would have studied at my small high school in central California. I also developed a lot of skills that I still use in my work today.
While these programs may not be for everyone, I would suggest researching them and maybe even talking to someone who has participated in one. This will help you gain a better understanding of how it affected their high school experience and later shaped their college application process.
Sophomore Year: Final Thoughts
While there are many more tips that I could give sophomores, the main piece of advice that I have is to remember that this is the year that you need to start thinking about the future. Without stressing too much about it, make sure that you try your best to be well-rounded and persistent in everything that you do.
For more personalized tips and answers to all of your college application questions, sign up for a meeting with a CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expert.
This informational essay on preparing for college during your sophomore year was written by Zoe Edington, UC Berkeley ‘18. If you want to get help with your college applications from Zoe or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.