Smart Steps for Sophomores Applying to College
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Giebien Na in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- Begin Exploring Personal Statement Topics
- Focus on Your Personal and Academic Growth
- Keep the Application Process Short and Sweet
Begin Exploring Personal Statement Topics
Brainstorm During Sophomore Year
While sophomore year is not always thought of as a time to work on college applications, there are definitely a few steps that you can take to better prepare for the process. One strategy is to begin thinking about your college personal statement toward the end of your sophomore year. Even though many students won’t start seriously writing their statements until the summer after their junior year, beginning early can be greatly beneficial.
When you begin your personal statement work during your sophomore year, you can just think about potential essay topics whenever you have free time. It does not need to involve a formal draft of an essay; instead, it can just be a free-writing or brainstorming exercise. This simple process has many future benefits, as you will have invested time into thinking about what makes you who you are, your unique traits as an applicant, and how your high school years have shaped you.
Revisit Your Ideas During Junior Year
Once your junior year arrives and you actually have to start writing your personal statement, you will be grateful to your 10th-grade self for already recording essay ideas that you can revisit to kick-start your writing process. You may find that a few of your original ideas work well or are topics that you may not have thought of if you had just started brainstorming.
Focus on Your Personal and Academic Growth
Avoid Focusing Too Much on College
A vital piece of advice for your sophomore year is to avoid spending too much time thinking about college. While it is definitely useful to begin researching schools early and to consider the components of the admissions process, try to keep college from being the entire motivation for your academic and extracurricular choices.
If possible, don’t fixate on the impending impact of your grades and activities on your college applications; instead, focus on what intrinsically motivates you. Colleges ultimately want to see students who have passions and personal motivations pursue their academic goals, get involved, and impact their community.
If your main reason for participating in specific opportunities is to apply to college, you may not be as motivated as you could be in extracurricular and academic activities. You may also end up pushing yourself into activities that you’re not that interested in or are ill equipped to succeed in.
Pursue Experiences That You Are Genuinely Interested In
For example, if you take a difficult course just because you think that it will look good on your applications, you may not get a good grade in it. Conversely, if you take a challenging course that you are truly interested in, you will likely enjoy it and get a better grade.
If you do things that you are genuinely passionate about, you will be more likely to grow, improve your abilities, and achieve success. There is no one “right” subject or activity to pursue in order to be a strong college applicant, so make sure you’re not falling into the trap of making college admissions the overarching reason for everything that you do within your high school experience.
Keep the Application Process Short and Sweet
Overall, it can be strategic to keep the college admissions process as short as possible because it can be an overwhelming experience. But while you certainly want to approach it with care and without procrastination, that doesn’t mean the stress of it should be part of your sophomore year.
Ultimately, it’s not the most fun thing in the world to do things like fill out your Common App or write and revise essays. Constantly thinking about your admissions prospects can be stressful, so beyond considering the advice provided here, it is best for the bulk of this process to take place between the end of junior year and your senior fall.