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Ways to Prepare for College During Your High School Years

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This weekend I met a friend for lunch, and somehow we started talking about the way our high school hadn’t really done much to help us prepare for college. We had a guidance department; they probably even had some brochures about colleges in their office, but it’s pretty sad that no one ever offered advice about college. Neither of my parents went to college, so they were as ill-prepared as I was. Everyone knows that hindsight is 20/20, but I definitely wish I had known more— or taken the initiative to learn more— before deciding on my college path.

How Important are Your High School Grades?

When I was in high school, I was heartbroken if I earned a B instead of an A. I wasn’t the class valedictorian, but I was an honors graduate and my grades were important to me. Looking back; I really don’t see what the big deal was all about. No one is perfect, and colleges realize this. The Center for Public Education offers a bit of advice: “Having the right credentials to get into college doesn’t necessarily mean straight A’s. It just means students should earn decent grades, take college-preparatory courses, and perform well on their college entrance exams. Students who fulfill the above credentials should be able to get into a competitive, four-year college, even if it isn’t their dream college.”

Take the Appropriate Classes to Prepare for College

Taking the proper classes to prepare for college is crucial, and taking more rigorous classes is usually recommended. The admissions requirements vary from college to college, but B’s in advanced calculus and physics are probably going to carry more weight than A’s in basket weaving and P.E. class.

The College Board recommends taking at least five solid academic classes every semester, including:

  • English and Language Arts, which help improve your writing skills, reading comprehension, and vocabulary.
  • Math, which is necessary to succeed on college entrance exams, in college classes, and in most jobs and careers.
  • Science, which forces you to think and apply theories to reality.
  • Social studies, which provides knowledge of local and world events.
  • Foreign language courses are also required for admittance by most colleges.
  • Classes in the arts and computer skills are also a plus.

Use Volunteer Work to Your Advantage

When I was in high school, I had to complete a specific number of volunteer hours in order to be eligible for Florida Academic Scholars, a state scholarship program. Other states have similar requirements, and volunteer work is a great way to add appeal to your college applications. Information about your volunteer experiences will also help beef up your admissions essays.

In addition to “looking good” on paper, volunteer work has an impact on your community and the organization to which you donate your time. Even if volunteer work isn’t a graduation requirement at your high school, it’s in your best interest to spend a few hours here and there helping out.


  • You’ll gain valuable experiences. Volunteer work doesn’t have to be boring. It’s almost similar to a college internship; you can spend some time helping out at a non-profit organization that you respect, and you’ll learn a lot about the ins and outs of how the group is run.
  • You’ll meet interesting people. I participated in several volunteer events with my high school’s ecology club, and I remember meeting people that were members of the Sierra Club, a nationwide group that wants to protect the planet.
  • You’ll have fun. I definitely enjoyed the volunteer work I did during high school; I actually wound up putting in more community hours than I had to because I enjoyed myself.

Participate in Extra-Curricular Activities

You don’t need to be a football star or cheerleader in order to take part in extra-curricular activities. Colleges do pay attention to whether or not you joined any clubs or groups during high school, so get out there and find something you like! You don’t have to “do it all,” but find one or two activities that you enjoy. Most of them can even lead to volunteer opportunities because of community service projects.

Some possibilities include:

  • Sports
  • Clubs
  • Band or orchestra
  • Job study or a part-time job
  • Church groups

If you’re high school and know that you’d like to continue your education, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Stop by your high school guidance counselor’s office, that’s what it’s there for! You can also check out the comprehensive search tools located right here at StateUniversity.com!


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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