What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Your Guide to Building a Strong High School 4-Year Plan

Is your profile on track for college admissions?

Our free guidance platform determines your real college chances using your current profile and provides personalized recommendations for how to improve it.


How do you start preparing for college now? It may feel like it’s a long way away, but there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for the future. Building a plan that you can use throughout high school will help you succeed and meet your goals.


Read on to learn how to keep your grades up, choose strong extracurriculars, develop good habits, use a support system, and create well-thought-out goals.



Academics and Grades

Choose classes that complement your interests and challenge you. Your schedule should include plenty of APs, though be careful not to overload. Develop a plan for keeping your grades up. This will take some navigating as you adjust to a more rigorous curriculum and course load.


As you advance through high school, you’ll take on more difficult course work and will need to prepare in order to meet the new challenges it will present.


Even simple steps like using a planner can help you organize your academic and extracurricular schedule. Check out How Using a Planner or Calendar Can Make Your Life Easier for tips on choosing the right system for you.


Learn what environment works best for you to study and do your homework. Perhaps you work best at the library. Maybe studying in the park frees your mind from distractions. Find the place and routine that best fit your needs.


You’ll also need to learn how to prioritize commitments and work—as well as learn how to learn. What exactly does learning how to learn mean?


Actively learning requires you to be engaged with your courses and curriculum. Instead of passively absorbing information, or sometimes not paying attention at all, active learning means that you’re interacting the material, asking questions, and finding connections.


Using active learning tips won’t just improve your grades, but will also allow you to gain more from your courses, which will help you discover your interests and passions and serve you well in college and your career. Here are 5 Ways to Actively Learn During Class.



Daily Habits

Make sure you develop good habits now. They can support you in high school and beyond. Here are key habits you should work on:


  • Studying: If you don’t do as well as you’d like freshman year, you have time to get back on track. However working on developing study habits now will help you later on.


  • Health and wellness: Your well-being is crucial to your success. Make sure you don’t neglect your health in favor of excelling in school; in fact, being healthy will help you excel in school. Exercise, for instance is important for both physical and mental health.


  • Meeting with teachers: You should routinely meet with your teachers to make sure you’re on track, especially if you’re struggling. You should also check in with your guidance counselor regularly, not just if you have a problem.


  • Time management: High school is a busy time. Use these time management tips to help you make the most of the time you do have.


  • Practice relaxation exercises: You’re going to be stressed and anxious from time to time. However, you shouldn’t let stress take over your life. Relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help you cope with especially difficult times. More more tips, check out 6 Techniques for Dealing with Stress in High School.

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Extracurricular Activities

Try new activities. There are many benefits, including meeting new people, developing new interests, and gaining leadership experience.


Try several different activities—as many as interest you even a little—now, and whittle the list down later. At that point, identify the most meaningful or ones you enjoy the most, and focus on those; that way, you can avoid overcommitting.


When you’re focusing on the activities that are most meaningful to you, look for leadership roles and initiatives you can take. This is one of the best ways to show your dedication to your passions and interests to colleges.



Support Systems

It’s hard to do high school alone. That’s why you should create and use your support systems.


Build and maintain friendships. You’ll meet new people through courses and activities. Also, work on building a strong relationship with your guidance counselor. She can serve as an advocate for you in situations such as conflicts with teachers or if you’re struggling in a course. Check out How to Build a Relationship with Your Guidance Counselor for tips on how to do so.


Remember that your parents are there to support you, too, so check in with them often, and keep them updated with your life and curriculum.


You may find that you need additional support. Don’t feel ashamed to seek outside support when you need it. For instance, you might need help dealing with a learning disability, test anxiety, and other issues. It’s best to see a mental health professional for issues like these.


For more support and guidance during high school, try a mentoring program. CollegeVine’s mentoring program, for instance, can help you discover your goals and talents and develop strategies for focusing on and honing your strengths and interests.




Think about your goals and plans for the future. What are your talents? Start identifying them, and make a list to which you can refer. This can help you when you’re researching colleges.


How do you want to use your talents toward a meaningful life and career? Activities and internships are a great way to explore your passions. You can also talk to your teachers and the rest of your support system to discuss and figure out your goals. They can help you consider your passions—though ultimately, your goals should come from you first and foremost.


The Takeaway

Working on building a plan now can helping you stay on track throughout high school. Focus on your academic work, habits, extracurriculars, support system, and goals to ensure that you’ll have success now and beyond.


For more tips, check out:


Your Ultimate Guide on How to Make a High School Action Plan

Starting 9th Grade: 6 Things You Need to Do To Own Your Freshman Year


Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.