Starting 10th Grade: 6 Things You Need to Do to Own Your Sophomore Year

Are you choosing the right classes?

Our free guide to 10th grade tells you exactly what you need to focus on in high school.


As a sophomore, you’ve acclimated to high school and are more or less in the swing of things. Now, it’s time to start planning and preparing for college (and the rest of your future). Here are six things you should do to own your 10th grade year:



1. Look for Leadership Opportunities

By now, you should have a identified a few extracurricular activities that align with your talents and interests. If you haven’t, you should be thinking about which activities on your plate best showcase and use your skills. You should be devoting yourself to a few as opposed to spreading yourself too thin across many.


Start looking for leadership opportunities. You might look into being an officer in a club, come up with a new club, or dedicate yourself to an independent activity. For instance, volunteering isn’t a “leadership position,” per se, but it shows independence and initiative, especially if you seek out and identify an opportunity on your own.


For more guidance, check out A Guide to Extracurricular Activities for Grade 10.



2. Keep Your Grades Up

If your freshman-year grades weren’t as high as you would have hoped, don’t worry too much; you can catch up. In fact, an upward grade trend—a steady rise in your GPA from one year to the next—can be beneficial to your application.


However, now you really need to buckle down. Don’t get complacent; your graders matter more this year. Check out How to Beat the Sophomore Slump in High School for more tips on keeping your grades up.



3. Challenge Yourself

You probably have more choice in courses this year. Make sure to challenge yourself with APs, IB, and honors courses, depending on what’s available at your high school. You don’t need to take every AP available, but if you think you can handle the course load, take the course.


You should definitely pursue challenging courses in your speciality—the area in which you want to focus in college. For instance, if you’re a math whiz and future engineer, that means the honors track for math and AP Calculus at some point. You should also explore your specialty through electives and additional courses.


Check out Your Guide to Sophomore-Year Course Selection for more tips on how to choose your courses.

Ready to conquer 10th grade?

Our free guide to 10th grade goes in-depth about subjects like how to build a rigorous course load, standardized testing, extracurriculars, and more.


4. Gear Up for and Take Standardized Tests

Many schools offer the PSAT to sophomores. If your school is one of them, it’s a good idea to take it now and again junior year. Doing so will help you identify areas to work on for the SAT, as well as help you learn how to prepare for the SAT. It’s “practice” for a reason.


Taking the PSAT as a sophomore gives you a low-stakes form of practice. You’ll probably take it again when you’re a junior, when it also serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.


This year you should be developing strategies to prepare for the SAT or ACT. You may end up taking it in the spring of this year, but if you do, it should really just be for practice. Remember that as you gain more knowledge, your score will go up, so expect it to be higher when you take it junior year.



5. Start Visiting Colleges and Creating Your College List

Now is the time when you should start thinking about about where you want to go to college. While you may have your eye on the most selective schools, you should also be considering other factors like location, size, type, and student body.


You should also start visiting schools to get a feel for what you want in a college. Think about whether you can picture yourself there and if you fit in. Build the first draft of your list; of course, it’s not going to be final, but it can give you an idea of the direction for your final list. Include a blend of safety, middle, and reach schools. (Remember: You’ll revise this later.) Check out 5 Tips for Building Your First College List for advice on your first go-around.



6. Think About Your Future

What do you want to major in? What do you want to do for your career? These are the questions to start asking yourself. Of course, you don’t have to have it all figured out. Just start thinking about these issues. Doing so will help prepare you for college.



Planning for What Comes Next

Think of 10th grade as a planning phase. Last year you were just starting out and get used to high school, and next year is action year, when you will take the SAT or ACT and more challenging courses and hone your college list.


Start developing strategies and plans now. That way, you’ll be in great shape for the rest of high school and college.


For more advice, read Getting Ready to Apply to College: Sophomore Year.


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for their high school mentees.


Combining mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses, our program provides students with the tools to succeed. As students learn from successful older peers, they develop confidence, autonomy, and critical thinking skills to help maximize their chances of success in college, business, and life.

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.