10th Grade College Preparation Timeline

As a tenth grader, you may see your classmates or older friends gearing up for college applications. Though there’s still time before you submit your application, you may wonder what you should be doing now to increase your chances of opening your acceptance letter. For ninth and tenth graders, preparing more intentionally in the early half of your high school education can help alleviate stress in the future and increase your chances of admission to your top choice school. Below, we’re offering some helpful tips and tricks to ensure you don’t miss any necessary steps when preparing for college.

  1. Create a Four-Year Plan

    In the Fall of tenth grade, one of the most important things you can do is meet with your school career counselor to create a four-year college readiness plan. Consider coming to this meeting with a plan for what you’d like to accomplish in the next four years. It’s important to understand which high school courses are required by colleges and that you’re in the right courses from the beginning. For some schools, taking AP courses in eleventh grade requires prerequisites courses taken in tenth grade. Get to know the levels of courses offered by your school. If you’re bored in your classes, ask your career counselor how you might challenge yourself and open the conversation to talk about college or AP courses.

    Use this meeting to check your class rank—if your school doesn’t rank, don’t panic! Some schools don’t; college admissions officers understand that this is beyond your control and make sure that it does not impact your chances of admission. Check your GPA, too, and see what you might be able to do to give it a necessary boost or maintain where you’re at.

    Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask your college counselor questions and keep an open line of communication. Even just dropping by to say hi or sending a quick email to update throughout the semester can go a long way when writing a letter of recommendation.

  2. Get Involved

    Extra curriculars are a fun way to cultivate your interests and build skills that can help to make you an ideal applicant. To learn more about the importance of extra curriculars, see our guide on the best extracurriculars for your resume. Though we specifically highlight college students in this article, there are many overlaps for high school students prepping their college applications. Extracurriculars also indicate to colleges that you have good time management skills and that you’ll actively participate in your future campus community.

    Tenth graders may consider using the summer between tenth and eleventh grade to help strengthen their college application. Summer jobs, internships, leadership opportunities, and finding ways to make a difference in your community demonstrate to colleges that you’re prepared to become a contributing campus member. If you’re wondering where to begin, start with a summer job, take a class that speaks to your interests, or apply to a summer program.

  3. Schedule and Take a Practice PSAT

    While the sophomore PSAT is not used for college admission, preparing and taking the test early can help you study smarter and figure out what you need to focus on to improve your scores. Depending on your school, you might have the opportunity to take the PSAT in October, February, or March. If you are unsure whether your school offers this test, but you would like to take it, schedule a meeting with your college counselor to determine your options.

    Taking a practice run of the test can also help familiarize you with the testing process. If you return strong scores, you will get your name on college mailing lists and begin to receive information about schools. Pay attention to these mailers and emails. They can help you figure out what campuses you may like to visit.

    However, many colleges are dropping their testing requirement altogether. If you have an idea of what schools you may want to apply to, double-check and see whether they require the ACT, SAT, or do not use standardized testing. Knowing this information can save you tremendous time, stress, and money during application season crunch time.

  4. Begin Shopping for Prospective Colleges

    Sophomore year is ideal for narrowing down what colleges you may apply to. Generally, students apply from anywhere between four and twelve schools. To maximize your chances of admission, we recommend creating three tiers of prospective colleges. You can learn more about the college list tier system here.

    Keep a ranking of your needs and wants in mind while looking for colleges. Other important factors include geographic location, academic majors available, academic quality, school size, overall cost, campus environment, and student resources. Many college websites provide an overview of this information to prospective students. At SAGE Scholars, we also provide detailed profiles on our over 440 member colleges to help students discover what college is right for them.

    College fairs can provide helpful information to start building a preliminary list. At fairs, colleges from across the country gather to give you more information on their schools. You can search online or inquire with your school’s college counselor to learn about upcoming fairs.

  5. If College Sports Are in the Future…

    If you think your student may have the ability to play Division I or Division II sports or have the potential to be scouted/recruited, parents and students should register their student for the NCAA Clearinghouse. Registering for this portal can help college coaches contact athletes, provide up-to-date information about participating in college athletics, and highlight the accomplishments that can earn athlete’s scholarships. It’s important to ensure that you remain in good standing for NCAA athletics admission requirements. You can determine what core curriculum you need to play Division I or Division II sports with the help of your school’s college counselor.

    There are a lot of misconceptions about NCAA scholarships. If college sports emerge as a serious possibility, make sure that you continue to stay informed on the rules and procedures via the student athlete eligibility center. For more information, visit the NCAA Eligibility Center.

  6. Apply for Scholarships (Yes, Really!)

    It’s never too early to begin applying for scholarships. Taking the time to complete a few applications every semester before your senior year can save you many headaches and money! Sophomores are eligible for more scholarships than you may think. Working through essays and applications also prepares students for essay writing on their college applications.

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