Chances are good that if you’re a high school student, you’ve probably already been approached by your parents, teachers, guidance counselor, fellow students, and a conglomeration of other people about where you might want to go to college and what you’re doing to prepare for it.
Answering these questions can feel overwhelming—especially if you haven’t had the chance to think through your options or make any semblance of a plan. The good news is that there are tons of resources out there that can help you figure out what’s important and what you can let go during this season of preparation. The end goal is to land yourself in a job you enjoy but that also allows you make a living; however, there’s a whole series of to-do’s to complete before you land there.
We’ve compiled a list of some important yet doable things to consider as you prep for the big leap to college.
1. Get involved in an extracurricular and invest
Joining the soccer team or getting involved with your high school’s theater program will do more for you than simply give you a good time. Not only are you building a variety of team-building skills and fostering commitment, but you’ll probably make some really solid friendships along the way. Colleges and universities love to accept students who are well rounded in their involvement because it shows that they care, they can juggle multiple responsibilities, and that they’ve nurtured the same skills that will make them great team players when working a job later in life.
When it comes time to type up your college essay or answer an interview question like, “Describe a time when you had to handle a difficult situation,” or “Talk about a time you got angry,” chances are good that you’ll have a variety of examples to pull from during your time in chess club or your time dribbling basketballs on the court with your teammates.
2. Consider getting a high-school level internship
Sure, you might already be working a job in retail or pouring espresso at your local coffee shop, but a high-school level internship will certainly set you apart from the rest of the pack. While high-school level internships aren’t quite as common as college-level internships, they’re becoming more and more popular—some basic Googling should help you discover if there are any helpful internships in your area.
At the very least, ask around. Your parents’ friends might need someone to do a little work at their business, and whether or not it happens to fall in line with what you’re interested in studying one day, you could ask them if it would count as an internship and add it to your application.
3. Start a portfolio
If you’re interested in any sort of art-related or communications-related job, you’re going to want to get started on a portfolio early. A portfolio is a collection of all your work (e.g. your paintings if you’re an artist, your designs if you’re interested in graphic design, your stories and articles if you’re a writer). Don’t worry about the pieces being prepared for an actual publication or winning portraits from an art show. You simply want to showcase the talent you have and the type of work you can do.
Nowadays, it’s ideal if you can make your own website to show off your work—you’ll be able to include the URL on your application and in emails for easy access. As you create different pieces—even if it’s simply a poem you wrote for a class assignment—include it in your portfolio or on your website so you can refer back to a body of collected work later on.
4. Connect with current students or alumni at your prospective colleges
Who will know the most about the colleges you’re interested in? Insiders of course! Connect with the admissions department at the colleges and universities you’re interested in and see if you can set up some interviews with current students or alumni to get the down low on what they like and don’t like about their school. At the very least, search for college bloggers who attend the colleges you’re interested in—they probably have written posts that could really aid you in making the right decision based off your values, as well as your interests.