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Ready Yourself for College by Checking Off These Five Important Action Items

1. Take the Right Classes

Your high school courses matter. Talk with your counselor each year to make sure you are taking the right classes to graduate. But you should also think about taking higher-level courses that will help you get into college.

Start by taking the basic classes:

  • Language Arts or English: Take every year.

  • Math: Take at least three years, but preferably four years of math. It can be a mix of Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus.

  • Science: Take at least three years. It can be a mix of Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

  • Social Studies: Take at least three years of Social Studies. Consider U.S. History, World History and US Government.

  • Foreign Languages: Colleges like to see at least two years of a foreign language, such as Spanish or French.

  • Electives: Take art, music, drama, computer science, journalism or other electives.

  • Take advanced classes, including Advanced Placement (AP) classes or honors classes when you can.

These classes will help prepare you for college-level work and show the colleges you apply to that you are willing to challenge yourself. You may even increase your chances for scholarships. Plus, many colleges will give you college credit for passing advanced courses. These may put you ahead of schedule for college graduation, and ultimately save you money!

Balance your schedule with electives that interest you. This may include art, music, journalism, computer, or business.

2. Participate in Extracurricular Activities

Your studies should always come first, but colleges also look at your extracurricular activities. Participation in sports, clubs, or volunteer organizations can help you develop your talents and demonstrate your willingness to be actively involved in your community.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Join school clubs, groups or organizations.

  • Join after school and summer programs.

  • Participate in sports through your school or your community.

  • Be active in the community, whether it is at a community center, your church, or a senior citizen center.

  • Consider an internship.

  • Look for opportunities to make the most of your summer vacations.

3. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great opportunity to make a positive contribution to your community. It also benefits you, and you'll feel good about yourself.

Volunteer opportunities may include tutoring younger students, participating in a fundraising event, or working at a hospital, youth center, nursing home, animal shelter or food bank.

You don't have to volunteer every day or even every weekend. Pick something you are interested in and volunteer your time based on what fits your schedule.

Here's how to get started:

  • Ask your school counselor to recommend an event or organization.

  • Check with your local library, community center or church to see if they need any help.

  • When you find something you really enjoy, stick with it and work hard. You can make a difference.

4. Do an Internship

An internship can help you explore an interest that may lead to a future career. Details may vary — some are paid, others unpaid; they may be available during the school year or over the summer — but all offer opportunities to explore areas of interest that may lead to a career choice.

If there's a company or organization you're interested in, call and ask if they'd consider you as an intern. Check with your school counselor, family and friends who may know of an opportunity, too.

There are also online resources such as and

5. Do More With Your Summer

Yes, you should have fun this summer. But summer vacation should be more than sleeping in, hanging out with friends, and enjoying the weather. Stay focused on your goal of getting to college.

There are many things to do that will keep you energized and engaged — and look good on your college application:

  • Contact your guidance counselor about a summer school program if you need extra help in any subject or to get you on track to college.

  • Summer is a great time to volunteer or intern.

  • Work at a part-time job, preferably doing something that interests you or adds to your skills and experience.

  • Take a class at your local community college.

  • Join a summer program such as Upward Bound, a national program that lets students like you spend the summer living and studying on a college campus. A program like this allows you to experience college and puts you on track to college.

  • Keep challenging yourself. Read books, newspapers, and magazines. Write in a journal. Watch the news or educational programs on PBS or the History Channel. Never stop learning.

  • Wondering how to find a summer program?

  • Ask your guidance counselors and teachers.

  • Look for posters on bulletin boards at your school, local library, community centers, and other places where summer opportunities for students may be posted.

  • Contact your local YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, United Way and community centers to see what they have to offer.

  • Look online. Do an internet search for “summer programs for high school students in (your town or nearest city)” or “youth programs (your town or nearest city)”, or “volunteer opportunities for teens (your town or nearest city).”



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