One of my newsletter subscribers suggested this idea to me, and I love it. Without any further ado, here are a few tips on how to prepare for college based on your current year in high school:
High school freshmen: Your goal in your freshmen year (and all years frankly) should be to get good grades. Also, explore different clubs at your school and find what you are interested in/passionate about. Which clubs can you see yourself potentially being president of in junior year? Which clubs or other extracurricular activities will give you the chance to compete for awards to add to the honors section of the Common App? You should also find your spike and start developing that skill. You may have already started working on a spike in middle school. Keep going at it! Freshmen year is when you will have the most free time to practice, so take advantage of that. And a side note: There's no need or pressure to take exams freshmen year, whether it be the ACT/SAT, PSAT, AP's, or subject test. Use this year as a way to lay the foundation for a strong EC profile. Oh, and don't forget about volunteering!
High school sophomores: Test-wise, study hard for the PSAT if you are taking it this year (see the junior section for more info). If you are aiming for a school in the Ivy League tier, I would recommend taking 1-2 AP or IB classes. Aim for a 5 on those AP exams, and pair the AP exam with the corresponding subject test. These courses are rigorous, so be sure to allot time in your schedule to really study hard for these classes. EC-wise, if you have the opportunity or are able to, compete in events to start building out your list of awards.
High school juniors: This is probably the most important and most test-heavy year in high school. This is typically when you would take the PSAT and SAT or ACT. Be sure to aim for the highest score possible. A strong PSAT score may qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship or, if you are a minority, one of College Board's recognition programs. A high score (ideally 750 or above in each category for the SAT or 33 or higher on the ACT) will expand the range of schools you can put in the target school category of your college list and increase your chances for your reach schools. You should also be very focused on building a strong mentor-mentee relationship with your teachers. It will be easier that way to ask for a rec letter when the school year ends or in the fall. Classes-wise, a good range of AP or IB classes to take is 3-5 if you are aiming for Ivy Leagues. Always remember, quality over quantity. If you think you can get a solid 5 on three AP's but might get all 3's if you overload yourself with four AP's, just take three. You can use your sophomore AP experience as a good test of how much you can handle. EC-wise, you should aim for a couple of leadership positions and finish up that honors section.
High school senior: Fall semester will be intense. You'll be writing college essays, securing rec letters, and possibly taking the SAT or ACT again on top of a heavy course load. If you need any help getting starting with college applications, check out my video here. I am also available for one-on-one consultations where I can help you guide you in the college essay writing process from brainstorming to final revisions. You can schedule a session with me here. Senior spring will be less intense, but you will still have AP exams. Don't fall for senioritis!!
And a few tips that depend more on the subject you are taking or have completed:
If you are taking or took pre-calculus, be sure to take the SAT II Math Level II test. This test covers everything through pre-calc. Calculus is college-level math and requires a very different kind of thinking and logic. It'll be much easier for you to focus on calculus, rather than take the Math Level II Subject Test the same time as calc.
If you are at the AP level for a language, be sure to take the AP exam and associated subject test, if available. This will help you test out of the foreign language requirements at most colleges and frees up space in your course schedule for other more interesting classes.
If you have taken and gotten a high score on any science Olympiad tests or the National Latin Exam (NLE), these can count as an honor.
I will keep adding to this as more ideas come to my mind and will share updates in future newsletters.