New Year’s Resolutions for High School Students

The longest year of our lives is almost over! And while many of us are ready to dive into 2021 and forget most of the year, it’s important to pause and make some goals for the upcoming year. Each year of high school is another opportunity to prove to admissions officers that you are a smart, driven, and talented student. As we move into the new year, let’s explore some new year’s resolutions for high school students. 

9th Grade

1. Keep those grades up!

9th grade is one of the most important years in high school because you are setting the foundation for your GPA. It is much easier to boost your GPA if it is already strong than to try to fix it after you started on the wrong foot. Aim for a 4.0. If you don’t make it, that’s okay; it is important to at least try for the absolute best. If you didn’t start out with the best GPA, use this semester to rectify poor grades and boost your GPA as much as you can. Although this may mean spending a few more hours studying, it will be worth it in the end.

2. Focus on your future schedule

After a semester of classes under your belt, you likely have a good idea of what classes are challenging and what classes are not challenging enough. Take a moment to compare your grades course to the amount of effort you put in to get the grade. If you have an A in a course, but you didn’t have to try too hard to achieve your A, you may want to consider taking a more difficult course next year. For example, if you excelled in your English honors class, perhaps you can challenge yourself a bit more by taking an AP or dual enrollment course instead. Remember, colleges and universities are looking for students who are actively challenging themselves in every area they can. If you are consistently getting A’s in a regular class, admissions officers make assumptions about your academic drive.
Colleges and universities want students who seize the day and take advantage of every opportunity. Without homework or class, summer is the best time to do something productive and exciting. Consider getting a part-time job, becoming a camp counselor, starting a business, or volunteering. The most competitive students have already started thinking about how they can make the most of their summer and bolster their resume for college admissions. No one task is better than the other. The best thing you can do in the summer is to explore or deepen an interest you have in a meaningful way.

4. Deepen your engagements

There is nothing colleges like better than dedicated students and nothing says “dedicated” like remaining in a club for four years. If you have found a club, volunteer experience, or organization you like, try to deepen your involvement by attending more meetings, volunteering to take on more responsibilities, or running for a position. If you haven’t found a club you like yet, use the second half of your semester to find something you truly like and stick to it.

10th Grade

1. Start exploring colleges

Now that you have a better idea of what you’re interested in and what matters most to you, you can begin to explore universities that align with those values. If you have an idea of what you want to major in, research colleges with strong programs in your major. If you have an ideal learning environment, research schools that cater to those standards. Perhaps you like smaller student-to-faculty ratios with discussion-based learning, if so, you may want to consider attending a liberal arts college. Or maybe you’re interested in attending an institution that aligns with your religious beliefs.

2. Consider taking more challenging courses

After a semester of classes under your belt, you likely have a good idea of what classes are challenging and what classes are not challenging enough. Take a moment to compare your grades course to the amount of effort you put in to get the grade. If you have an A in a course, but you didn’t have to try too hard to achieve your A, you may want to consider taking a more difficult course next year. For example, if you excelled in your English honors class, perhaps you can challenge yourself a bit more by taking an AP or dual enrollment course instead. Remember, colleges and universities are looking for students who are actively challenging themselves in every area they can. If you are consistently getting A’s in a regular class, admissions officers make assumptions about your academic drive.

3. Start to think seriously about your major

Do you have an idea about what you want to major in? If so, do your activities properly reflect those interests? For example, if you have determined you want to be a doctor, you should display your interest in many different avenues. Your transcript should display high-level math and sciences courses. Your resume should include work such as volunteering at a hospital, interning at a doctor’s office, or even private research. You want colleges to be able to clearly see what you’re passionate about throughout your application. If you don’t know what you want to major in, that’s okay too! Continue to explore the things you’re passionate about and admissions officers will learn about what matters most to you. Your application should be an extension of your personality, wants, interests, and passions. You must be strategic about how you present yourself

11th Grade

1. Make an ACT/SAT Plan

  • The latter half of your junior year is an ideal time to begin testing. Use your PSAT score report to develop a comprehensive study plan. Try to focus on areas where you relatively underperformed on the test. For instance, if you notice on your score report that you consistently answered algebra questions incorrectly, you may want to focus your study plan around that subject area. Prepory recommends taking the SAT in March for the first time in the 11th grade; the March SAT date gives you enough time to study while providing a good enough framework to understand how many times you may need to retest.
  • You may also want to consider making a realistic SAT/ACT goal. Use your PSAT as a good jumping-off point. If you earned a 1320 on your PSAT, it is reasonable to aim for a 1400 on your SAT. If you know what schools interest you, you may want to use their average accepted students’ profile to determine what range of scores are considered acceptable. You can then match your target score to the range of scores at the colleges/universities of your choice. Testing blindly is ineffective. It is important to set a goal so you have a number in mind in which you are actively working. Not to mention, psychologists say setting goals leads to higher motivation and more self-confidence.

2. Begin thinking about your personal statement

  • Students often underestimate the amount of time and energy needed to complete the personal statement. However, if done correctly, your personal statement should take a good amount of time. Students should take a considerable amount of time reflecting on their passions, interests, and goals before they put pen to paper. Think about it this way, the personal statement is the only time you, the student, get to control the narrative. In every other part of your application, college admissions officers get to know you through numbers: grades, test scores, number of AP classes, GPA, etc. The personal statement is the only time they get to know you. Who are you? What matters to you? How did you grow up?
  • The personal statement is the only time you can answer these types of questions. As such, an early start is never a bad idea. In fact, the more time you spend writing and revising the personal statement, the better you will answer these questions. Spend a few days reflecting on what actually matters in your life and then tackle a rough draft. By the time application season rolls around, you will be ready.

3. Showcase leadership skills

Every college wants a leader. They want someone who is willing to work with others toward a better future for all. Leadership comes in many different forms and there isn’t just one type of leader. You must find the version of leadership you align with. There is no better time to do that than in your junior year. Start making a game plan to show colleges and universities just what kind of leader you are. If there is a club you have been deeply involved in for many years, consider running for an officer position. If you have an established interest in a subject and there is no outlet for your interest, consider starting a club. Also, it is important to note that your interests do not have to solely exist on your schools’ campus. You can also engage in outside organizations that tailor to your interests; use those organizations as a means to showcase leadership as well. For example, if you play club soccer, try to become the team captain. If the organizations you care for are not designed with leadership titles, consider taking on more responsibility or heading a project. For example, perhaps your main extracurricular activity is volunteering at the local animal shelter, perhaps you can volunteer to manage the volunteer schedule or organize an adoption event. Although you may not have “president” on your resume, certain tasks can prove your leadership skills.

This is your last summer to impress admissions officers. Try to do something extraordinary. Perhaps you could start a business or nonprofit, volunteer with a local organization, or attend a pre-college program. Whatever you do, do something that interests you or that you care about. Not only will admissions officers learn about what you care about, but they will also be impressed by your engagement.

12th Grade

1. If you have not started applying, apply

The most important application season has ended and rolling/regular admissions has started. If you have not applied to your schools of choice, you must apply as soon as you can. Colleges fill up most, if not all, of their freshman class by the end of the year. Therefore, you will be fighting for a limited number of spots. Try to have your application in as soon as you can so you have a fighting chance.

2. If you have applied, follow up

While much of the hard work is already done, you will still need to follow up on the school you applied to. If you are worried something may not have sent in time or that your application was not completed correctly, you will need to contact the school to confirm. Call the school and ask for the admissions officer that reads for your region or email the admissions officer for your region listed on the school’s website. Be sure to introduce yourself and set a good impression. After all, they are likely the ones who will approve or deny your application.

3. Check on your applications

Students who applied early may have already received some good or bad news. If your application decision wasn’t what you wanted, you may want to take a few precautionary steps. If you were deferred from your school of choice, respond to their deferral letter. If you were waitlisted, you should restate your interest in the school and take the necessary steps to continue on your admissions journey. Denials are not a reason to give up or be upset. Instead, you will need to amp up your regular decision applications. In other words, you want to make your regular decision applications as perfect as possible. Spend extra time on the supplemental essays, reach out to your counselor or college admissions coach, and reassess your personal statement. Do everything in your power to put your best foot forward.

4. Breathe

Senior year will be over before you know it. Make the most of your time with your friends, enjoy all of your senior year festivities, and have fun! The hard part of senior year is over and you should not stress what you can’t control. Everything will work out, we promise!
We are sure 2021 will bring a better year for everyone. In the meantime, enjoy your break and get ready to amp up those applications in your spring semester. See you in 2021!

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At Prepory, we recognize there is more to college applications than demonstrating interest. Contact us now to learn more about how we can guide you through each part of the college admissions process!