High School Guide to College Prep


Karla Pazos

I always wanted to go to college, but like many seniors, I had little idea of how difficult and time-consuming the college application process would be.  But over the past few months I learned an important lesson the hard way…there really are steps that if taken, can set you apart from other applicants, whether you are aiming for your dream school or nabbing a great scholarship.

So let me present this: a list of steps I wish I had at my disposal to prepare for this rigorous process.  

9th Grade (Freshman Year) 

  • Although it may not seem like this, grades matter from the first day of high school. All your grades contribute to your overall GPA. (and keeping above 3.0 is the key to access all the dual enrollment opportunities junior and senior year)
  • Start taking honors classes, or possibly even become part of the IB program. Challenge yourself. If you do well, it will boost your weighted GPA (which is how we determine Class Rank). 
  • Get involved with clubs or organizations in your community. It’s never too soon to start getting community service hours. This is the best way to set you apart from other applicants. The sooner you start, the better. 
  • Get comfortable with your councilor or MAP teacher. Although circumstances have changed due to COVID, it is important to build a connection with your counselor. Reach out to them; if your counselor knows you and your interests, they can inform you of new opportunities.
  • Start looking into what careers you might be interested in. Do research to determine if you are willing to follow the steps required for that career. Most importantly, make a list. 
  • Try your best to get along with your teachers and leave a good impression. You might need them to write letters of recommendation your senior year. 
  • Start improving your study habits and avoid procrastination. Possibly start keeping a planner, to keep up with your assignments. This could be on paper or an app on your phone.
  • Possibly have a conversation with your parents or legal guardian about starting to save up for college. 


10th Grade (Sophomore Year) 

  • Continue attempting to expand your involvement in clubs or extracurricular activities. 
  • Maintain your grades. 
  • Start taking more advanced courses. 
  • Narrow down your career fields of interests. 
  • Prepare for the PSAT. Look into practice worksheets like khan academy.  
  • Start looking into scholarships and their requirements. It’s never too early to get informed. 
  • Sign up for AP or dual enrollment courses for next year.  
  • Continue saving up for college. 


11th Grade (Junior Year) 

  • Make sure you take advantage of AP and dual enrollment courses. 
  • Take leadership in your club or extracurricular activities.  
  • Prepare and take the ACT or SAT. Take countless practice tests!  
  • Build a resume with your extracurriculars and awards. 
  • Focus your attention on scholarship opportunities and make a list of the award amount and due date.  
  • Begin working on your college and scholarship essays.  
  • Make a list of colleges you would like to attend.
  • Narrow that list down at the end of the year. 
  • Begin taking college tours.  


12th Grade (Senior Year) 

  • Apply for FAFSA as soon as October 1st. The earlier you apply, the more money you’ll be able to get. 
  • Continue taking campus tours. 
  • Make sure you have completed or are in track to completing all graduation requirements.  
  • Take/Retake ACT or SAT if needed. 
  • Reach out early to teachers to ask for letters of recommendation. 
  • Apply for your top list of universities. Applying to back up schools is always encouraged.
  • Follow your scholarship deadline list and apply for as many as you are eligible for. You never know which one you’ll receive. Start early so that you don’t become overwhelmed. 
  • Don’t let senioritis get to you. It will be hard, but you must maintain your GPA even after you are accepted. Your scholarships may depend on it.