When Should I Start the College Admissions Process?

The earlier you can start, the better your chances of getting into a top school might be.

As a high-achieving and motivated student, you may dream of getting into an Ivy League or other elite school. Knowing when to start preparing yourself for the epic journey that is the college admissions process is important. In general, the earlier you can get started in the process the better it will be for you. Your preparation for college and to get the best scores on your standardized admissions tests should be continuous, starting from the beginning of your freshman year until you graduate from high school.

When to Start Preparing for College

According to a report from ACT, “The condition of College and Career Readiness National 2018, slightly fewer ACT-tested graduates were ready for college coursework this year than last year. The percentage of students meeting at least three of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in the four core subject areas was 38% for the 2018 US high school graduating class, down from 39% last year but the same as in 2016.

A higher percentage of students this year than in recent years fell to the bottom of the preparedness scale, showing little or no readiness for college coursework. Thirty-five percent of 2018 graduates met none of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, up from 31% in 2014 and from 33% last year.

The national average ACT Composite score for the 2018 graduating class was 20.8, down from 21.0 last year but the same as in 2016. Average scores in English, mathematics, reading, and science all dropped between 0.1 and 0.3 point compared to last year.

Readiness levels in math and English have steadily declined since 2014.

While the company attributes part of this to the fact that more students are taking the ACT test than ever before, the achievement gap clearly demonstrates the importance of starting early on your college preparation so that you are ready for college and able to gain admission to a good school.

Having a longer period to develop your interests and to hone your skills can help you when it comes time to take your ACT or SAT and to have a terrific scholarship and college admissions resume.

Some experts recommend starting as early as sixth grade. We have found that starting to think about and to prepare for college should ideally start during the summer before your high school freshman year but getting help later can still be of benefit to you. Here are some of the things that you should think about during each of your high school years so that you will be on a path to your own personal success.

Freshman Year

When you start your freshman year, you will begin with a clean academic slate. Your course selection is very important, as are your grades. If your school offers advanced placement, international baccalaureate or honors classes, you should take them instead of their regular class versions. Highly selective colleges want to see that you have engaged in a rigorous curriculum while you are in high school. They believe if you succeed in those, you’ll succeed in college. You should also make certain to sign up for extracurricular activities that fit your areas of interest. You do not need to spread yourself too thin, however. If you love math and science, sign up for math club, technology club or science club. Being involved in what you are passionate about will serve you well later. Keep an eye on your grades throughout the year, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You will want to determine how much you need to study each day and each week and set the time aside. Following a regular study schedule may help you to achieve the best grades that you can, and tutoring can help you to get great grades in subjects that you need more help with.

Sophomore Year

When you reach your sophomore year, it is time for you to again take as many rigorous courses that you can. During this year, you might also begin thinking about the different careers and majors that you might be interested in. It is not too early to start visiting different college campuses. This may help you to understand which universities a better fit for you might be. Continue actively participating in your extracurricular and volunteer activities, and try to run for leadership positions in the clubs that you are in. You will need to continue studying and working hard to get good grades. During the spring or summer after your sophomore year, take practice tests for the PSAT, ACT and the SAT. This will give you an idea of the testing formats and content while also providing you with an idea of the areas in which you might need more help.

Junior Year

During your junior year, you need to continue building on what you’ve already accomplished in your freshman and sophomore years. Continue with your rigorous courses and extracurricular activities. It is a good idea for you to seek out internships in the areas that you might be interested in for your future career during this year. For example, if you think you might want to be a doctor someday, then consider finding out about a medical externship program at your local hospital for high school students. This will help you to get more information about your possible career choice and whether it is something that you truly want to do. Your junior year should also contain some focused preparation time for your ACT or SAT that most students take in the second half or summer after junior year.

Senior Year

If you have top grades, great scores and an excellent resume of extracurriculars, volunteer activities and internships, you should consider applying to the colleges of your choice via the early action or early decision process. Doing so may improve your chances of getting accepted. Do not slack off with your studies. Take rigorous courses, and don’t give up on anything. If your scores need a boost, take the tests during the fall and apply to colleges during the regular application period.

Contact Oracle College Planning for Help

Getting accepted to the college of your dreams is a marathon rather than a sprint. By taking the long view and beginning early in your preparatory process, you may stand a better chance of being accepted to the school of your choice. The professionals at Oracle College Planning can help you throughout the entire process. Call us today to get started on your journey.


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