What You Should Be Doing Each Year in High School to Have a Successful College Admissions Experience


Growing up, I used to watch a lot of TV. Even though the heat didn’t work in my basement and the room gave me shivers that went to the balls of my feet, a show or two was always on my daily agenda. With age, the shows I was interested in shifted from wanting to watch the PBS Kids nightly specials to recording every Disney Channel and Nickelodeon original movie that was ever mentioned on a commercial. I was one of those that can still sing both the Camp Rock and Camp Rock 2 soundtracks by heart. Still can, actually, and still with no shame. With my introduction to Nickelodeon and Disney Channel shows, my different visions of the high school life became brightened like Christmas lights, and I was becoming more than excited to go. While I knew I would never be acting at (the fake) Hollywood Arts High School or living on a Cruise Ship, I wanted to know how I could make my years of high school as productive and entertaining as possible within a more traditional high school experience.

Because of the lack of older siblings or other family to help give me advice, I turned to YouTube. At the time, I had already learned a lot through the site, like that cats can do absolutely anything and oranges are extremely annoying when they talk. However, when I tried to do research on how my four years had to go in order to have a competitive college application, I was only able to salvage a few genuine responses, as 95% of the knowledge I gained from the videos were identical advice regurgitated with different wording, advice as common and bland as a saltine cracker. With the help of some exceptions, including YouTubers (Katherout, Annemarie Chase, and Joi Wade), I was inspired to try some things for myself, and found what worked and when I needed to start things.  I worked for you to avoid the mistakes that I’ve made during high school, and a good timeline to follow to prepare yourself for the college admissions process.

Freshman year


Academically, freshman year of high school is an adjustment period. Some people, like myself, find the adjustment easy, and others find it more difficult. However, it is a year that goes on your transcript so it’s important to start the year focused and stay focused throughout the year.

Extracurricular Activities:

Get overly involved in activities. If you have any slight interest, sign up to get alerts and go to the first couple of meetings. It’s easier to join some activities then quit them after freshman year, if you don’t like them, than to try to join clubs, sports, etc. as an upperclassman.


This should be an area you are least concerned with. Because most of you won’t have the math skills or have built up the English language skills that are crucial to the ACT/SAT. Don’t do more than the practice tests your school may require you to take.


  1. One of the best ways of getting through the stresses of high school and the college admission process is having friends or a community that will support you through both your successes and failures. Freshman year is a great time to establish your “crew” that will be there for you. While these people may not stay with you throughout your entire high school journey, at least having a past connection is a great support mechanism to make the high school experience both fun and rewarding.
  2. Set both short and long-term goals for yourself academically, within your extra-curricular activities and socially. These goals can range from making the varsity lacrosse team, to getting a 3.8 unweighted GPA, to getting into your state school. Writing these goals down and keeping them somewhere where you’ll read them often can help you maintain your focus throughout the school year.

Sophomore Year


Keep grinding. Stay focused. If you slipped into bad habits freshman year or were not happy with your academic performance, don’t dwell on those mistakes. Use them as motivation and a learning experience for this year and going forward.


By the summer, talk to your parents/guardians and determine how you’ll be preparing for your standardized tests (the ACT/SAT), whether that’s with prep courses, private tutors, or self-studying, in order to get ahead of your peers. If you think prep courses or private tutoring are paths you’ll need to go on, it may be a good thing to pursue during the summer as you have more free time to do the practice.

Extracurricular Activities:

By sophomore year, continue to search for the extracurricular activities you really enjoy. There is no shame in quitting or joining activities this year. If you want to have the possibility to gain leadership in one of these activities, make sure to attend as many of the events/practices/meetings for the activity, in order to show dedication to the advisor or coach.


If you’re interested in doing some more unique things during college, like playing a sport, joining an ROTC program (which you can read about here http://www.goarmy.com/rotc.html) or studying the performing arts, talk to your guidance counselor and see what sort of preparations you’ll have to do before-hand. The last thing you want is to find out when you’re applying that these programs aren’t available to you because you waited too long.

Junior Year  

Junior year is the year you’ve got to get your head in the game. This is the most looked at year by admissions committees on a college application, so you need to.

If this year is getting too stressful, make short-term goals. Sometimes it’s easier to look at getting through a stressful week than a well-known stressful week.


  1. For those of you who decide to apply to colleges at the early deadlines in November, the end of this year is the last impression colleges will have of you when you apply, so you need to push yourself academically. Try to do the absolute best that you can academically.
  2. Since you most likely got all of your graduation requirements done with, this is a year to establish a schedule in areas of interest. For example, if you want to be pre-med, it would be beneficial to double up on science classes, to show your dedication to your major to your colleges of choice.


Try to get all of your testing out of the way as early into junior year as possible. Start doing prep and taking actual exams by December to give an adequate amount of time to improve your score. If you believe you are going to be applying to a college that requires or recommends SAT subject tests, make sure to plan for those as well.

Extracurricular Activities:

  1. If by this point you have found a few activities that you really enjoy, try to dedicate a bunch of time to them. If you love playing the trumpet, you can play in a myriad of bands, mentor beginner trumpet players, and go to intensives in the summer to help you improve your craft. This sort of strategy allows you not only for tremendous improvement in what you do, but shows colleges your dedication to the activities you involve yourself with.
  2. Look into possibly pursuing leadership in the things that you’ve been involved in. No matter how much you doubt yourself about getting a leadership position, just do it. While one of your volleyball teammates with an ego bigger than the Pacific thought they were guaranteed being captain BS’ their speech and is basically not going to be considered, you’ll wish that you had written a speech yourself.


  1. If affordable, try to visit some of the colleges that you are interested in. If the visit list is still limited, maybe take a week and go to a couple of concentrated areas with lots of colleges, such as Boston or LA, because there are a variety of different colleges that you can visit in order to get a feel for the type of environment that you would like in a particular college.
  2. Stay sane and socialize. Go to a couple of football games. Go to Homecoming, prom, girls ask guys dance. Go to a party, even if you have a lot of homework due on Monday. It will keep your mind clear and sane. You’d be surprised by how much screaming the lyrics of your favorite song can take you out of the stresses of the world and into a happy place.

Senior Year


  1. If you end up applying to any regular decision deadlines, you will have one-two marking period grades that will be sent to colleges. Just like junior year, it’s another time to impress colleges and show another strong academic record.
  2. Remember that even after a college accepts you, they can take back their acceptance if your academic performance is not where they would like it to be, so try to stay focused enough where you can achieve grades of a level that is near your highest performance in high school.


If your standardized testing is not already completed, work on getting it completed in the September and October dates.

Extracurricular Activities:

Enjoy being on your sports teams, orchestras, and unique clubs while you can. If you aren’t interested in pursuing these at a collegiate level, this year will be the last that you’ll be able to experience them. Make that last year count.


  1. Make sure to dedicate time nightly for your college applications. You don’t want to fall behind on these and not have them at the quality that you like.
  2. Visit the colleges that you got accepted to if possible, to help make your final decision of where you’ll be attending college easier.
  3. Have fun! Treat yourself for the hard work put in you put in the past 3 ½ years.



The Summer Senior Slump: Getting Ready for Senioritis and the College Application Process


Defining the Slump

The day I am writing this article is the day that I had my first interview for an internship. The day I am writing this article is the day I had a summer meeting for a club that I am an officer for. The day I am writing this article is the day that I truly sat myself down and thought to myself, the summer is almost over, and I have no idea what I am doing with my life. Yes, it is quite melodramatic and cliche for a seventeen year old high school senior like me to say, but I don’t think any other group of words could sum up what most high school seniors feel the summer before consecutive months of worry lines and sleepless nights.

Recognizing the Slump

I woke up this morning earlier and more alert than most. Today was a big day for me and it required a different mindset than most of my summer morning yawns. I needed my mind focused on current events, political awareness, my future endeavors - this list could go on about what I thought the people at the internship I was getting interviewed for wanted to hear. I should have realized sooner that my own personal interests and qualities are the main reason why I would get hired as an intern in the first place.

Before going to the interview, I met up with my fellow club officers at our high school to discuss possible events and opportunities for our club this school year. Our discussion quickly took a different turn, and soon enough we were discussing our worries and stresses about newly released AP test scores, last minute SAT testing, and of course, the he-who-shall-not-be-named of incoming high school seniors. College applications. I didn’t realize, that until that moment when I heard my classmates spill out their college related confessions, that time was not slowing down. In other words, I needed to get my act together, and fast.

Attacking the Slump

On my way back home from the meeting and getting ready for my interview at 12:20 PM, my mind was juggling between the “could be’s” and the “what if’s”. What if I don’t improve my SAT score by the time applications roll around? Could I actually get into a good college with my mediocre transcript? Instead of coming to my senses that moment when I was stressing out, it is only dawning upon me while I am writing this article that instead of thinking, I should be doing. I have my fair share of regrets and I have always thought about doing something I will not regret, but when will the time come when I actually do it? If you’re reading this, you probably find yourself in a slump, feeling regretful, but not actually doing something about it. This new and last school year is not even starting yet, but the weight of responsibilities and worries are already bringing us down. What we need to do is stop concerning ourselves with the “if’s” and “but’s” of our worries, and start focusing our mindsets on kicking our senior year in the butt - in the best way possible.


No, I don’t mean the exercise where you sit still and let small chants run out of your mouth, but hey you could do that too if you want. By meditating, I mean do whatever you can to not stress (yet). The first thing you should do before taking on the grind of getting out of this slump is to take a significant amount of time to relax and not worry. Let your mind think thoughtfully, and not angrily, on your mistakes you might have made in the past school years. Reminisce on the enjoyable moments, but recognize your regrets. The first step of tackling a problem is finding and recognizing the root of it.

Although you may be hard on yourself for your mistakes, take this time to also think about any dreams or wishes you have always had. I am a firm believer of second chances and the ‘it’s never too late’ mentality. Have any long or short term goals in your mind? Never lose sight of them and write them down, you could seize the day at any moment. Taking this time to recognize and organize all your thoughts will make it easier once you actually start doing something about them.


Now that you have mentally assorted all the things you have been meaning and wanting to do, it’s time to get those phalanges and femurs moving. Get excited! This next step is the part that requires the most optimism, patience, but most of all open mindedness and fun. Bust out your computer, or any other device that gives you access to Google, and your favorite snacks, because the next amount of hours or days will be your creative research period.

After establishing your mistakes and goals, you need to find a way to tackle them. Need to retake a science class? Find out if your school offers summer courses, or if you can find a college nearby that allows you to take a class for credit. Want to start finding out different career paths? Research related volunteer work that fits your ideal job, or any internship opportunities nearby. Use this time to actually start taking action on what you want to do with your life. The great thing about this step is that it does not even have to be boring or impulsive. Let your creativity flow during this research period and really focus on finding what screams at you and makes you want to drop everything and do it at that moment.


So you figured out you want to stop being lazy and found some stuff that actually interests you. Now what? After narrowing down your options and choices, here comes the hard part. It is time to actually do it. Interviews, workshops, and applications may be rolling like an avalanche towards you, and it may be stressful and take a toll on your brain. You need to readjust your mindset out of summer lazy mode, and flip the switch to summer productive mode. The key words to this step are practice makes better, not perfect. This is the time for you to get better.

Get better at presenting yourself, get better at a certain field of study, get better at a particular hobby or interest. There is no need to be perfect at anything yet, because that will come later. The point of getting out of this slump during the summer is to improve and prepare you for the school year, when the even harder parts make an appearance. Perfect is an overrated term and state of being in the first place, and overrated is definitely boring. Remember what I said earlier? This is a time to have fun and be creative, there is no room for being boring.


Congratulations! You don’t have everything figured out yet, but you are one step ahead of accomplishing what you initially set your mind on doing. This last step is even vaguer than the previous ones. After focusing your time on isolating your problems and goals, to celebrate may mean differently to each person. You could celebrate by actually throwing a party and using the summer’s heat and your swimming pool to practical use. Or celebrating may mean landing the job or internship you wanted, and actually enjoying yourself doing something new and exciting.

This is the time to do things for yourself, because once August or September rolls around, school will be creeping up on you again. Whichever way of celebrating you take on, you should be proud of yourself for stepping up to the plate, and batting out your problems or goals that have always been following you around. It takes one to talk about their dreams, but it takes an even greater one to do something about them.

During the Slump, and Afterwards

Some of you may be wondering, what happened with that internship? Even if you are not that curious, I will tell you anyways because it is a prime example of the steps I just listed to you. I found out about the internship through one of my closest friends, and it only took a matter of two days to research, apply, and take on my worst fear - getting interviewed. I spent the past two days researching about the internship position and the campaign I was hoping to work for. I had practically all of my older cousins review my resume and do trial interviews with me. I had the general information about this campaign down, and I knew my resume was at its best presentation, even if the only other time I actually touched it was freshman year in our required business class.

Whilst driving in the car to my interview, I already knew I wouldn’t arrive at the recommended time of 15 minutes prior. Additionally, I forgot my cover letter and I wore heels that I could barely walk in. I parked in the parking lot of the campaign headquarters by 12:18, and I walked through the glass doors by 12:20. The office was pretty barren, with groups of desks in one corner and campaign posters in the other. The people were dressed casually, and my internship coordinator could pass as my sister. I was standing in the middle of the open office in a thick black blazer and uncomfortable heels. I could tell you how the interview went, and how I felt afterwards. But I could also tell you that the day I’m writing this paragraph is the day after my interview. The day I’m writing this paragraph is the day I started my internship. The day I’m writing this paragraph is the day my boss recognized me for my superb phone duties, and how I went over the average number of phone calls on my first day (which is a pretty big deal). I wore jeans to the internship today and ate pizza while making survey phone calls. I defined the Slump, but am still yet to conquering it. Cheers, anyone?