When you’re a sophomore in High School, college feels so far away: how are you supposed to know what you want your college years to look like? How are you supposed to even begin to evaluate what makes up the “perfect fit” university? How are you supposed to know what you want to major in, let alone do when you get out of college? Thinking about starting the college application process can feel daunting and distant. So, start small!
During your second year of high school, you don’t have to have it all figured out. In all honesty, most people get all the way through college and STILL don’t have it all figured out. Actually, I’ll take that a step further - most people, no matter where they are in life, never have it all figured out. You can make as many plans as you want to, but life has a way of changing things. So, the good news is, you’re not behind, no matter how much you might feel like you are.
That being said, there are a few things that you can do your sophomore year to ensure that you are on track to apply to college, which is an amazing and unique educational opportunity to explore new things and find out a whole lot about yourself. You don’t necessarily have to KNOW what you want to do and where you want to go: the college application process and college itself is all about finding yourself, and discovering passions you never thought you had.
So, you’re a sophomore in high school; what does that mean in terms of college preparation? What should you be focusing on?
1. Keeping up Your Grades: This second year of high school is the first year that you can start to demonstrate upward trajectory and growth: keep your grades up or even raise them from your freshman year and you’ll set yourself up for a really promising transcript when it comes time to actually apply. Find classes at your high school that challenge you (whether that be AP/IB/honors courses, or just new/challenging topics) and explore new avenues that you are interested in. Stay focused on your classes, but also remember to still have fun with your education and use this time to explore what you MIGHT want to pursue in the future.
2. Deepen Your Extracurricular Involvement: During your freshman year, you may have joined a bunch of clubs or student groups that you were interested in (to make friends, explore new activities, etc.). During your sophomore year, you can focus on finding new passions or narrow down your involvement to things that truly bring you joy and also deepen your connection and involvement in these groups. Start to think about taking up a leadership position in one of them, or explore other opportunities that branch off of what you’ve already started. Remember that when it eventually comes to college applications and listing your extracurricular involvement, it’s not about quantity, but quality and demonstrating your passions. Additionally, college aside, you should be spending the most time in extracurriculars that bring you joy, give you energy, or make a difference in a field you are passionate about.
3. Summer Job/Involvement Brainstorming: After your sophomore year, it can be a great idea to start thinking about (and applying to) internships or summer activities that demonstrate personal passion, professional growth, or philanthropy work. Whatever it may be, staying busy during the summer (while also prioritizing time to relax and recharge) can demonstrate initiative and maturity. Additionally, it can be a great time to start saving money if you have not already - start to build up some spending money for college, or put away a chunk of cash to help you pay for college itself. Professional responsibility is a huge part of growing up, and it can teach you so many lessons that will ultimately stand out in your college application, and also get you a little closer to figuring out what it is you want to do in life.
4. Keep Your Ears Open/ABSORB Information About College: Although it feels a little early to really ACT on anything regarding college applications, it’s never too early to be open to learning about colleges, or more generally about the college experience. (Hey, you’re already doing much more than most sophomores by reading this blog!) Read student blogs, attend virtual campus visits, talk to friends, you name it. Whatever gets you more comfortable with what the college experience will look like and what kind of environment you want.
5. Start to Think about the Academic/Social Environment you like: Although it is so early to know what makes up the perfect college “fit” for you, you can start to think about what environments bring you joy, and what you might be lacking in your life. Do you attend a small high school? If yes, do you appreciate the tight-knit community where everyone knows each other, or do you long for something much bigger where you can meet people you don’t know every day? Do you attend high school somewhere with sunny weather and warm temperatures? If so, do you find yourself enjoying the sunshine every day, or do you wish you could frolic in the fresh snow and snuggle up next to a rain-covered window? Start small, and think about the tiniest factors that bring you joy. This can help you start to craft an idea of what environment you mind find desirable in college, before you even know what you want!
6. (Optional): Start Thinking about the PSAT: Sophomore year, in all honesty, is on the early side for thinking about standardized testing (additionally, many colleges are moving towards not even asking for standardized test scores in the future). This is something to keep on your radar, and investigate lightly if you feel ready to do so. Most of the preparation for SAT/ACT testing will come in the fall of your junior year, where you really start to think more about the college application process.
Overall, as a sophomore in high school, you should stay primarily focused on enjoying your high school experience and exploring your education and social options. However, you can always start preparing by starting small and taking it step-by-step - don’t feel overwhelmed! And remember, it’s totally normal not to know what you want to do right now - that will come with time.
If you want more advice on how to start preparing for college as a freshman sophomore, or junior in high school, check out Rachel’s blog: www.shcollegeconsulting.com/our-advice-blog/how-to-start-preparing-for-college-as-a-high-school-freshman-sophomore-or-junior.
Sarah is a Consultant and Social Media Marketing Manager on the Study Hall College Consulting Team. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley in the class of 2020 where she majored in Architecture and minored in Spanish Language and Literature. For more college application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.