There is no question that sophomore year in high school is an exciting time. You’re no longer a first-year student, and having year of experience under your belt can certainly help you better understand your school and make the most of your time there. That being said, with the added understanding of how high school works, sophomore year also comes with some added responsibilities. For some students, sophomore year may be the time to begin thinking more seriously about applying to and attending college. You might find yourself bombarded with an entirely new college prep vocabulary: PSAT, ACT, SAT, GPA, Extracurriculars, Scholarships, Common Application, FAFSA, and so on. While this may feel overwhelming at first, it is always a wise idea to get a head start on college planning. In that spirit, read on for a list of helpful tips and resources for high school sophomores!

 

1. Learn how to build a relationship with your guidance counselor

When it comes to choosing and applying to colleges, high school guidance counselors can often be your best allies. It’s a good idea to begin building up a strong relationship with your guidance counselor early on in high school so that they will better understand how to help you throughout the college process. Check out CollegeVine’s guide on How to Build a Relationship with your Guidance Counselor!

 

2. Look into early graduation

 

For some students, high school academics are just not rigorous enough. If you suspect that you might be nearly ready for college, you may want to consider looking into your school’s early graduation policy. For advice, take a look at this blog post: Should You Graduate Early From High School?

3. Start a checklist

 

There is no question that it can feel overwhelming to think about the entire college process. While applying to college is certainly a serious and difficult task, the good news is that you don’t have to do it all at once. You can get started by creating a college planning checklist. Check out this guide: An Easy to Use College Planning Checklist for Sophomores

 

4. Consider doing an academic summer program

 

The summer after your sophomore year can be a great time to improve upon your academic skills and set you up for success in junior year and even beyond. You may want to consider taking a look at some academic summer programs for high school students. To get started, check out this blog post: Affordable Academic Summer Programs for High School Students.

 

5. Start thinking about summer activities in general

 

Aside from academic programs, the summer can be a good way to get to know yourself and your interests even more. It is also a helpful way to make productive use of your time during your summer vacation in order to populate your college applications and pursue other interests. Check out this CollegeVine guide: 3 Effective Ways to Spend Your Summer

 

6. Begin self-studying for AP Exams

 

AP exams are a good way to help yourself stand out to colleges, and some schools will even offer college credit for a high score on these exams. Sophomore year is a good time to get started studying for these exams on your own. Take a look at this guide in order to help determine which exams you should be looking at: Which AP Exam Should You Self-Study?

 

7. Start thinking about how your activities reflect your interests and how they will look on applications

 

Creating a cohesive application certainly sounds daunting at first. While you might not be sure which activities will best reflect your interests, or you might not know how to market yourself and your interests to colleges, it is a good idea to start practicing these skills as soon as possible. Check out Creating a Cohesive Application: How to Stand Out to AdComs.

 

8. Start thinking about the SAT

 

While you may or may not have much experience with the SAT, sophomore year is a great time to start learning where your strengths and weaknesses lie on the test. For tips and tricks on preparing for the SAT, check out this blog post: 10 Tips to Prepare for the SAT.


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9. Determine when to take the SAT/ACT

 

Some students find that they perform better on the ACT than the SAT; some students simply like the ACT better. Whatever your standardized testing preference is, it’s best to know early on so that you can begin planning and studying for the nuances and quirks of whichever test it is that you plan on taking. Take a look at this CollegeVine guide: When Should I take the SAT or ACT?

 

10. Begin thinking about scholarships

 

While sophomore year might seem rather early to begin thinking about scholarships, you’d be surprised by how helpful it can be to get a head start on understanding the scholarship application process! For a more detailed look at this process, check out What You Need to Know for a Successful Scholarship Season.

 

11. Start to make a college list

 

Determining which schools you’d like to apply to is no small feat. That being said, as with any major life decision, it is always a good idea to begin determining what you want early on so that you know exactly what it is that you are looking for. Making a list of colleges you’re interested in applying to is a good way to begin this process. For more advice, take a look at the blog post Is It Too Early To Be Making My College List?

 

12. Remain organized and learn to manage your time well

 

While college might be on your mind as a sophomore, it is more important that you are able to stay on top of your work in high school and balance this workload with your extracurriculars, family responsibilities, and other after school activities. Time management skills will come in handy not only in high school, but also in college and even beyond! Check out this post on time management: Eight Tips to Use Your Time Efficiently and Stay Organized in High School.

 

13. Consider starting a club

 

If you have a great idea for a new club at your high school, sophomore year might be the perfect time to get started making your vision a reality! Not only does creating a club help you stand out and demonstrate leadership skills to colleges, but this experience will also give you helpful managerial skills that may come in handy throughout your life. For a guide on starting a high school club, check out How to Start a Club in High School.

 

14. Learn how to manage having a job in high school

 

As a sophomore, work (or lack thereof) might be on your mind. Taking on a part-time job in high school is certainly a big responsibility, but it comes with many benefits including the opportunity to improve upon your time management skills and gain experience with a workplace environment. For more information on working in high school, check out the blog post A Guide to Jobs you Can Work as a High School Student.

 

15. Pick your courses strategically

 

When it comes to high school classes, picking the right or wrong ones can inform (or negatively impact) your high school experience. For more information on picking high school courses, check out this CollegeVine guide: How to Pick Your High School Courses Freshman and Sophomore Years.
While sophomore year might seem like it’s filled with uncertainties and unanswered questions, there is no reason to fret! Your second year in high school is a great time to begin thinking about applying to colleges, and there are plenty of resources available to help you do so. To help you on your journey towards college, be sure to check out the CollegeVine guides mentioned in this post, and take a look at our SAT tutoring services and Student Mentorship services as well.

Devin Barricklow

Devin Barricklow

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).
Devin Barricklow