How to Prepare for College as a High School Freshman

by Ana Felce

When you’re a high school freshman, college may seem like a far off idea. You may not have even given it much thought yet! However, your first year in high school is a great time to start thinking about how to prepare for college in a way that will set you up for success.

“College will be here before you know it, and you don’t want to fall behind,” noted Luke Irving, admissions counselor at Azusa Pacific University. Although it may seem far away, the time to apply for college can come up a lot quicker than you realize.

By getting a head start, you’ll be prepared for the college admissions process when the time comes. Here are several proactive approaches you can take.

Get to Know Your High School College Counselor

One of the first things you can do to get more comfortable with the idea of applying to colleges is to see if your high school has counselors dedicated to answering your college questions. They’ll have experience with the admissions process and have tons of useful information to share.

“Often, students don’t even meet their counselor until senior year, but it’s a good idea to get to know them early on,” Irving recommended. Get to know them, talk about your hopes for the future, and let them share their insights on how to prepare for college.

If your high school doesn’t have a counselor dedicated to college admissions, you can also meet with your general high school counselor. They can help answer questions about how to prepare for college—and help guide you through your high school years.

Make a Plan for Your College Goals

When working with a counselor and planning for college during your first year of high school, give some thought to what classes you should take to prepare for your dream major or career. It’s also important to keep up with your studies so you can achieve academic excellence.

Your high school counselor can help you create a plan for what classes to take in high school, especially if you have your heart set on a particular college major. They can also ensure you meet all high school graduation requirements and give you tips about classes recommended by college admissions offices.

Even if you’re still deciding on your college major, look at the academic requirements for a few schools’ college admissions. It’s important that your academic record reflects your abilities and that your grades and courses meet those requirements. By setting up a plan early in your high school career, and checking your progress each year, you’ll be sure to stay on track.

Build Relationships with Teachers

While it’s important to start forming relationships with your high school counselors, don’t forget to connect with your teachers, too! Make a point to participate in class, ask questions, and be an overall engaged student. Teachers are more likely to write letters of recommendation for students who take their classes seriously and succeed academically.

At the same time, don’t put too much pressure on yourself—you don’t have to be the smartest student to get noticed or recommended by a teacher. They’ll notice when students put their best effort into a subject. Keep this attitude in mind (now and for the rest of your high school career) to build lasting relationships with your teachers.

Start Defining Your Dream School

When it comes to deciding where you want to attend college, Irving suggested giving thought to what type of college environment you want, as this can make the decision-making process smoother.

“Start thinking about what you would like in a college,” Irving said. “This is so important because, in the next few years, you will start to get a ton of information from schools.” By starting to think now about the kind of college experience you want, you’ll be able to filter that information and decide what schools are worth looking into when the time comes.

There are large universities with thousands of students and smaller schools with modest class sizes. You can stay close to home and family at an in-state school or branch out to attend college in another state. By thinking about what factors like these and others that are important to you, you can narrow down the many options available.

Of course, involve your family as much as you can! Their support can be a great resource if you have questions, or if you’re the first in your family to go to college, then you can use this experience to learn together so you’re all well-prepared by the time you enter college.

Remember, it’s never too early to begin planning for college, even as a freshman in high school. Are you interested in learning more about the student experience at Azusa Pacific University? Take a virtual tour of campus and discover more about the admissions process.