College planning: What freshmen and sophomores can do this summer
The biggest advantage to starting your college planning as a freshman or sophomore is that it alleviates stress. There will be 1,000 things on your college to-do list. Spreading them over four years, as opposed to cramming them into one or two, will make all the difference.
Summer is the perfect time to dig in.
During the school year, college planning tends to be put on the back burner because of other demands, such as math homework or a project that’s due in a week. The summer months, on the other hand, provide an opportunity to relax a bit and contemplate your future.
The summer months, on the other hand, provide an opportunity to relax a bit and contemplate your future.
For freshmen in particular, the most important thing is to get a handle on your academics. If you’re struggling in, say, math, use summertime to work on the subject so you’re not behind the eight ball when sophomore year starts. Perhaps even hire a tutor. Remember, colleges focus on your high school transcript more than anything else, so your GPA and the classes you have chosen will be of utmost importance.
…read, read, read, and then read some more.
I recommend students read, read, read, and then read some more. Delve into whatever you’re interested in, whether it’s comic books, magazines or novels. To succeed at the college level, your reading skills need to be fully developed. You’ll have plenty of time in the summer to make reading part of your routine.
Another important routine to start as a freshman or sophomore is visiting colleges. If your family is driving to South Carolina for a summer vacation, build some stops at colleges into your trip. Do this on all your travels. That way, when you begin your “official” college visits as a junior or senior, campuses won’t seem alien to you. They’ll feel normal, like a mainstream part of your life.
You shouldn’t, however, be focused on specific colleges at this early stage. The key is to get a feel for the type of college that appeals to you. Do you like small schools? Large schools? Rural schools? Urban schools? By making these visits early on, you’ll know what kind of environment suits you once the application process kicks in your senior year.
At Partners for Achievement, we suggest our “Midwest Day Trip” itineraries, which list seven different travel options that each take about two days. The itineraries guide our students through clusters of different types of colleges—large, small, public, private—so they can begin to understand where they’ll be most comfortable.
As you can see, we’re advocates of easing into college planning early in high school. There’s no doubt it will pay off in the long run.
Kendall Hayes is a college counselor at Partners For Achievement. Read more about Hayes and the rest of the Partners For Achievement team.