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College Planning Tips for 10th and 11th Graders
While ninth grade was a time to acclimate to high school and try out different classes and activities, tenth and eleventh grades are a time to get serious about college planning. While you still have some time before you actually need to start drafting your application, there are lots of other things you can get started on as a 10th or 11th grader to make the college admissions process smoother later on.
In this post, we detail our advice for beginning your college planning in tenth and eleventh grade so that you’re well positioned to juggle those college applications with ease when senior year rolls around.
Create a Separate Email Account for College Correspondences
One of the first things you should do as you begin to get serious about college planning is create a separate email account dedicated to college correspondences. This serves a few purposes. First, many “first email accounts” simply aren’t the kind of email address you want to hand out to colleges. Things like ‘sk8rkid’ or ‘muzicgrrrl’ just aren’t the kinds of monikers you want attached to your college applicant persona. Now is the time to create a more mature email account, typically using some combination of your initials or name.
Even if you already have a fairly professional sounding email address, it’s still a good idea to start another account just for college. This simply makes it easier to stay organized. You are going to have many correspondences related to college over the next few years and having a dedicated place to keep track of them will ensure that you’re able to find them when you need them.
Build Vocabulary and Writing Skills
Tenth grade is still too early to start standardized test prep in earnest, but it’s not too early to build concrete skills that will be needed in school, in college, and on standardized tests. This includes your writing and vocabulary skills.
You should begin consciously working on your vocabulary and writing skills around the same time that you begin college planning. One simple way to build these skills is to read a lot of challenging, varied materials including newspaper articles, science journals, and historical texts. Reading will not only build writing and vocabulary, but also broaden your perspective.
For more information about building your vocabulary and writing skills, check these posts:
Anticipate SAT and ACT Prep
If you’re in tenth grade, you still have some time before you need to dive into test prep. If you’re in eleventh grade, it’s really time to start thinking about standardized tests. Regardless, preparing for your SAT or ACT is something that needs to be planned ahead and carried out over a prolonged period.
You should take this into account when planning your priorities for eleventh grade. The second semester of eleventh grade should have some time dedicated to test prep. This means not committing to every single activity, volunteer organization, and planning committee. Guard your time so that you’ll be able to give test prep the time it needs.
Focus on Academics
Your number one priority during tenth and eleventh grade should of course be your own wellbeing. This means taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally. After that, your top priority should be your academics. While college admissions weigh many different aspects of your high school experience, including extracurriculars, essays, and recommendations, your academics are usually foremost in the application process.
During tenth and eleventh grade you need to build strong grades in challenging classes if you want to be able to get into top colleges. This means a fine balance between taking the classes that challenge you and taking classes that are too hard. To learn more about choose classes and achieving academically during tenth and eleventh grade, see these posts:
Research Colleges and Build a College List
Tenth and eleventh grades are an ideal time to begin considering which colleges interest you most. In order to do this, you’ll need to take a hard look at your priorities and what matters most to you in choosing a college. Of course, you still have two or three years before you actually go to college, so try to keep an open mind and remember that your college list is always a work in progress, right up until the day that you actually submit your applications.
To learn more about making a college list, check out these posts:
Meet With Your Guidance Counselor
Your guidance counselor has unique insight into the college admissions process, particularly for students matriculating from your high school. While many students don’t get to know their guidance counselors until later in the college planning process, it’s a good idea to meet with your counselor early on.
Schedule a meeting with your counselor to discuss your goals and priorities in choosing a college. Because his or her time is often limited and he or she often has dozens or more students to juggle, it’s a good idea to give him or her a heads up about what you want to discuss. Email your guidance counselor in advance and outline your goals and priorities. Let him or her know that you’re excited to get his or her input into what you can do over the next years to achieve these goals. Optimizing the expertise of your guidance counselor will give you a leg up later in the admissions process.
Build Relationships With Teachers
Early in your high school career, you might feel shy or awkward getting to know your teachers beyond the traditional teacher-student roles. In fact, some of your teachers may even seem standoffish or at least content to keep this professional barrier firmly intact.
As you mature and get to know your teachers better, though, you’ll get a sense for which ones your really connect with. It’s important to nurture these relationships. A solid support network can help you through struggles later in your high school career and can later be a part of your college admissions team, providing mentorship, advice, and even recommendations.
To learn more about building these important relationships with your teachers, see our posts How To Build Your Killer Admissions Team and How To Get College Recommendation Letters: Building Recommender Relationships.
Tenth and eleventh grade is the ideal time to get serious about your college planning. Laying the foundation now for a successful college admissions process means that your job will be easier later on, during your senior year when the chaos is really starting to pick up.
For more advice about laying a strong foundation for college applications, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from course selection and extracurriculars to college applications and career aspirations, all from successful college students.