You've probably got a ton of questions about getting ready for college—including questions about what you can do right now, while you're still in high school.
Here are some typical questions we hear from high school students—and some solid answers to help you prepare for college. They're taken from The Campus Life Guide to Christian Colleges & Universities (Broadman & Holman).
I want to make sure I'm doing all I can now to get into a good college. I make good grades, but do colleges look at more than just grades?
Good grades are a great start. But colleges do look at more than just grades when considering your application. They want a much bigger picture of you.
For starters, colleges aren't impressed by good grades alone; they'll want to see that you've taken challenging classes. So, don't just take easy classes (like "The History of the No. 2 Pencil"), where good grades don't mean as much. Take hard classes, too (like "Electromagnetic Biomedical Physics in Southeastern Nebraska"). These tougher classes will not only look better on a college application; they will better prepare you for college.
Colleges are also interested in how well you've done on the SAT and/or the ACT. (We'll talk more about these tests later.)
But Christian colleges want much more than academic performance and test scores. They're interested in your co-curricular and extracurricular activities, community service, church involvement, spiritual development, job experience, internships, even your family life—essentially anything that's played a vital role in shaping who you are.
Leadership is also critical. Involvement in activities is good, but taking a leadership role in at least one of them is even better. A leadership role shows colleges you are someone who stands out in a group, someone other people can look to for guidance. And a leadership role tells colleges you're willing to commit your time and energy to something you care about.
Finally, colleges are interested in what others have to say about you. When you apply to colleges, you'll probably have to submit two or more letters of recommendation from adults who know you well—like a guidance counselor, a teacher or a pastor.
If you need more advice on what classes to take and what types of activities to pursue to better prepare you for college, talk to your guidance counselor. He or she is your best resource for preparing for college.
We're big fans of your guidance counselor, and we strongly encourage you to consult him or her any time you have questions about preparing for college.
What kinds of courses should I be taking in high school?
In a nutshell, college prep courses—classes that are academically challenging. Take your school's "honors classes," or courses with titles preceded by the words "Advanced Placement." (Some "AP" classes will even earn you college credit.) Your high school probably has a number of course programs geared toward college-bound students. Look into them.
Even if you're a senior and you've already met your minimum graduation requirements, resist the urge to take all easy classes. They might make your senior year easier, but the lack of intellectual challenge won't help you adjust to the rigorous academics of college. Keep those brain cells in gear.
Remember, too, that many colleges have minimum entrance requirements in math, English, science, foreign language, etc. Ask your guidance counselor and/or the admissions counselors at colleges you're considering about these requirements.
While you've got to take a certain number of core curriculum classes to get into college, don't get so caught up in those that you forget about valuable electives, especially in the arts—chorus, band, orchestra, art, drama. Also, consider taking a technology or computer course. These types of electives will make you a more well-rounded student.
Should I take challenging courses even if I risk getting lower grades?