Freshman year might seem early for college planning, but setting the ground work during your first year of high school is an important step. By now you are making some new friends and feeling a little more settled than those early days when the seniors looked so old and you felt so young.
My College Planning Team is ready to help you navigate the process. Founder Stephanie Kennedy offers these Do’s and Don’ts for students to serve as a guide to the steps you will want to take your first year of high school. Even if you are not 100 percent positive that you want to go to college (community or a four-year school) or a technical college, remember that you will change and grow in the coming months.
What to Do
- Make sure you have received a list of approved classes that meet the requirements of a four-year college. You may be surprised at how many seniors don’t realize they are missing some important requirement, not to graduate, but to be accepted to many universities!
- Create a plan now. Make an appointment with your guidance counselor and ask her/him to help you design an academic plan for each year of high school. Discuss this plan with your mom, dad or another trusted adult and ask for their input.
- Set goals. What personal and academic goals do you want to achieve while in high school? Look ahead and think of who you want to be and how you want people to remember you when you graduate. Your goals might include the honor roll, an award for excellent attendance, holding a part-time job while in school, helping others through a peer-to-peer tutoring program, playing a sport, or perhaps passing a particularly challenging class.
- Follow your interests. When you begin to research what colleges want in a student, you will see the words “well-rounded” and “extra-curricular” activities. Chances are your high school has a number of clubs and sports teams, but also look to your church and your community for getting involved.
- Volunteer and do some community service. One of the best ways to explore possible careers and understand the world around you is through service. If nursing interests you, then the local hospital or assisted living center for seniors are a good place to look. DuPage County offers a comprehensive list of places to volunteer that includes links. Some high schools require a specific number of community service hours for graduation, so be sure to know the requirements and to track your hours.
- What is your passion? It is often said that the happiest people are the ones who incorporate what they love into their work. Now is the time in your life to begin paying attention to what motivates you. Talk to others about how you might be able to use your interests to your benefit.
- Save your pennies. If you have not set up a bank account for college expenses, visit your local bank. There are banks that offer accounts designed for high school If you and your parents want more information about planning for college financing talk to Stephanie Kennedy at My College Planning Team.
What Not To Do
- Don’t believe that freshman year doesn’t count. It does. Have fun but make good choices.
- Don’t skip class!
- Don’t fail to make up missed assignments. One very smart boy that I know got an “A” on every test but did not hand in his assignments. All of the “A’s” could not offset the “F” for missed assignments. He ended up with a C minus in the class. In fact, his grade was so low that the only reason he passed was because the teacher was required to round up his grade of 69.7 percent to a 70 percent.
- Don’t assume you are not doing well because the teacher doesn’t like you. Go to your teacher and ask why your grade is low. Teachers want you to succeed, honest. If you still can’t figure out why you are not doing well in a class, ask your guidance counselor or a parent to meet with you and the teacher to come up with an improvement plan. This might include help before or after school or outside tutoring.