Planning Your High School Years Part 2
Last year, I wrote about how you should plan your four years of high school. It was a general overview from freshmen year to senior year. However, after advising students for the past year, I like to add a couple tips to the previous post. Now, these extra tips come with a caveat. They mostly apply to students that want to be very competitive, particularly in regards to elite schools. Sure, most students want to be competitive. But it’s not really needed if you’re looking at tier 2 or tier 3 schools.
1) Start studying for the SAT towards the end of your sophomore year.
There’s a lot of pressure nowadays for students to do well on the SAT (or ACT). As such, many competitive students are studying for the test even earlier. I’m not saying you have to be hardcore about it as a sophomore. But it’s a good idea to learn more about the test and what’s on it before you dive right in during the summer after sophomore year.
2) You have to take the SAT subject tests.
For many colleges, these are optional. Furthermore, many students in Thailand take the AP or IB tests, the IGCSEs, or the A-Level tests. You would think with many of these additional tests, and the fact that many colleges say that the SAT subject tests are optional, you wouldn’t really have to take the subject tests. However, from experience helping students apply to colleges, I noticed that applicants that have taken the SAT subject tests tend to have a better shot at getting into elite schools. So while schools like NYU may not require the SAT subject tests (or even standardized tests), you should take them anyway if you want a good chance of getting into the school. This applies even if you’re taking the ACT.
3) Begin the Common App essay sometime during the summer after your junior year.
I’ve had many students come in and start working on the Common App essay sometime in November. It’s a bad situation to be in. The first semester of your senior year is already hard enough. You have last-minute testing to do, senior activities, and making sure your first-semester grades are good. You don’t need the stress and hassle of writing your most important essay from scratch. With that said, start working on the essay during the summer. The Common App essay prompts don’t really change from year to year, but if they do, it would only be a small change anyway. So start thinking about the topic and start writing early. Furthermore, colleges will begin release their applications in August (some in the fall), so start planning your supplemental essays early.
4) Find a barely reachable, top-tier choice, and apply early.
Acceptance rate are better for those that apply early. However, this only matters IF you are within range, or at the very least, close to it. Still, you should try to take advantage of this if you can. The College Admissions game rewards those that are well-prepared early. If you are a good student who took his/her tests early enough and got the scores, you should apply early. To do this effectively, find a dream school early that fits in with your GPA. From there, make it your target. Work towards it and do the studying that will get you the score that will put you in its range. Not only will this help with motivation, but by the time it comes for you to apply, you’ll be ready. Furthermore, you’ll find out by December if you’re in or not, which will make senior year a LOT easier.
Remember that there are no one-size-fits-all requirements for getting into a good college. However, the tips above are highly recommended if you want a smooth transition towards getting into a good school.
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