A High School Timeline

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A High School Timeline

By Alex Stepp

I don’t know about you, but personally, I like a set of instructions. I like to have a list of deadlines and guidelines that I can follow while I am accomplishing a task. So, when this summer rolled around – the summer before my senior year – I felt myself wondering what all I needed to do and feeling frustrated by the vagueness of some instructions that I found. So, I am going to compile a list for you of all of the stuff that you need (a term I use loosely here) to do in each year of high school. Please note that this will be done with the best of my ability, and some of the information may not apply to all of you. Here’s hoping it helps, though!

  • Freshman Year (9th Grade)

So you’ve made it to high school…congratulations! Now, I know what you are thinking: it is my first year in high school. There is no way I should be planning for college already.

Sadly, my friend, this is not the case, and I will tell you why. Now, as a senior, there are colleges, beautiful colleges that look like Hogwarts and witnessed the attendance of John Green, to which I cannot apply because I did not take the right classes. No, instead of taking 4 years of one foreign language, I took two years of two different languages. Instead of taking Physics, I took Earth Space Science. If I had known that I needed certain classes were required for this dream college that I happened upon too late, I would have taken them. So…

-Know what classes your dream college(s) is looking for. Take them. (No, you do not have to have a dream college at this point, or any point).

-Take fun classes! Take classes that interest you. Try to find out what you like to do as early as you can so you have as much time as possible to do it! This will help you later on in college when you are trying to pick a major (see Krista’s article).

-Join clubs. This will also help you discover what you like to do, and you will make tons of friends and memories while doing so.

-Mainly, have fun. This is a time of discovery. Find what you love to do, and do it.

-Keep your grades up. When it comes time to apply to colleges, you will want your GPA to match a college’s requirements. If you don’t apply yourself now, you will regret it later. If you are really struggling, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask your teacher or a tutor for help. Ask Rose ( is a good resource, and there are plenty more like it.

-Lastly, volunteer. To me, there is no better time spent than that spent helping others. Sure, it looks good on college applications (or so I’ve heard), but there are so many other benefits to volunteering. You know, like helping the world to be a better place.

  • Sophomore Year (10th Grade)

-Continue to keep up your grades. Now that you have experienced high school classes, consider taking honors classes in the subjects you excelled in last year. Challenge yourself!

-Continue to take classes that interest you. Don’t be afraid, though, to take classes that you don’t think you would normally take. You never know unless you try!

-Take the PSAT. This is a test that is kind of like a practice test for the SAT. It is important because as a junior you will be entered into the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) when you take the PSAT. This is a program that allows you to get many scholarships if you get a high enough score. So, it is imperative that you take it your sophomore year so that you have the practice that you need to excel next year. For more information on the NMSQT, click here: Also, make sure to check out our articles on how to study for standardized tests like these!

-Take the PLAN. This is like the PSAT, but instead of preparing you for the SAT, it prepares you for the ACT. I actually never took it, so I cannot give you much information on it, but any practice can help! For more information, click here:

-Start thinking about college. Maybe do a bit of research on some colleges that you think you might want to attend.

-Continue to volunteer and participate in clubs!

  • Summer Before Junior Year (11th Grade)

Okay, so hopefully you have been spending your summers volunteering and reading and basically doing educational activities that can benefit you, but now is the time to get serious. Because…

-It is time to take the SAT and ACT! Duh duh DUH! Okay, so technically you don’t take these tests right in the summer of your junior year. Most people take them at the end of their junior year and again at the beginning of their senior year. But, now is the time to prepare. Trust me when I tell you that your junior year will be crazy. Now that you are able to take AP classes, you might want to. That’s great! Talk about a challenge and a boost for the GPA, not to mention that these classes prepare you for college classes. Plus, colleges appreciate AP classes. Your stress level might not. I don’t know where you go to school, but at my school, AP classes are extreme. This is not a bad thing, though, but these classes take a lot of time if you want to get a good grade. You most likely will not have as much time to prepare for the SAT and ACT as you want/need. Silly me, I didn’t realize that I should have started studying so early, so I had to struggle to balance school work and studying, and it was not fun. So start studying! (Make sure to check out our articles on preparing for standardized tests if you need tips!)

  • Junior Year (11th Grade)

-Continue to keep your grades up.

-Take AP classes and honors classes to be fully prepared for the college experience.

-Take any AP tests you have taken classes in.

-Take the PSAT/NMSQT. Good luck!

-Make your college list. Do not limit yourself when choosing colleges. It is an excellent idea to include several realistic colleges on this list, meaning colleges that are close to you that you can afford (or colleges far away that you can afford. Basically, colleges that provide you with a good education on a budget, unless you are wealthy, in which case: go wherever is ideal to you!). Do not exclude colleges that you think are not realistic. Even if the college is too expensive or too far away, do not immediately throw it out! You may receive enough grant and scholarship money that you can attend the college at a price much lower than the tuition posted on their website. If it is important enough to you, please do not think it impossible.

-Keep volunteering and participating in clubs. Maybe try out for the student body or school newspaper if either interests you. Aim high!

-Tour some colleges close to you that you might attend. Ask if you can sit in on a class.

-Take the ACT and SAT in the spring. If you don’t like your score, don’t worry! You can always take them again.

-Start searching for scholarships. It is never too early to start doing so. You can even start earlier than this. But junior year is definitely a good time to start your search if you haven’t at this point, especially if you will need to rely heavily on financial aid for college.

  • Summer Before Senior Year (12th Grade)

-Narrow down your list of colleges to the ones you will apply to.

-Create a list of deadlines and application requirements for these colleges.

-Acquire all of the materials needed for the application. This means print out the applications, send test scores to colleges, and gather any documentation you might have from throughout your high school career.

-Work on the application. This doesn’t mean that you have to finish your applications in the summer. It is a good idea to get a head start, though, especially if you are applying to colleges with low acceptance rates. Create your résumés and work on your essays so you have time to study for the SAT and the ACT come fall.

-Study for the SAT and the ACT if you are retaking them.

-Continue volunteering.

-Find and apply to scholarships (see more information on scholarships in some of our other articles).

  • Senior Year (12th Grade)

-Take challenging classes. Don’t slack off just because it is senior year.

-Take any AP tests that you have taken classes in.

-Register to take the SAT and ACT (if you feel you need to) and take them again.

-Narrow down your list of colleges to the top three-five.

-Send in your applications after gathering recommendation letters, lists of club participation and community services, essays, test scores, etc. Make sure to apply before the deadlines!

-Apply for more scholarships.

-Start thinking about what you would like to major in. You don’t have to pick now. You don’t even have to pick as soon as you get into college. Just think about it so that you can come to a decision. That way you can spend even more time studying specifically in the area in which you would like to have a career.

-Tour the colleges on your narrowed list.

-Choose the college that you would most like to attend and that would work the most for you.

-Make sure to get your cap and gown for your big day!

-Congratulations! You did it! You made it through high school! Sure you still have college, the military, a job, or whatever else you decide to do, but you accomplished a major task. Be proud of yourself! We sure are proud of you.

That’s it! That is the list that I have compiled. Again, I might have left some things off, but I hope it helps in some way.





Courses to Take In High School

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Courses to take in high school

By Hannah Rollett

With the strict graduation standards for high school and the strong emphasis on course choice in college, it can sometimes be difficult to choose our courses for high school. Should you take AP Statistics your senior year? Or would you be better off in Honors English 12 with a standard Pre-Calculus class? Whether you chose AP or Honors, here are a few tips for choosing your courses:

-Focus on what you want to major in. For example, if you’d like to major in English or become a teacher, take challenging literature courses, such as AP English Lit or Honors English. If you’re not sure what you plan to major in, look at what you’re good at and choose courses based on that. Most likely, you’ll choose a major or career relating to those interests.

-Remember your strengths and weaknesses. Obviously not everyone is great with Math and not everyone receives only A’s in English. If you struggle in a subject, try to go for a more standard class. If you’re really good at something, go for a more challenging course, such as honors or advanced placement. It’s better to receive a B in standard mathematics than to fail miserably in an AP version.

-What do colleges want? While you may not fulfill a college’s every wish, you should definitely try to fulfill some. For instance, most colleges want to know that you are ready for such a big responsibility. Many of them look for students who have challenged themselves throughout their high school career. So attempt to take some challenging classes and to push yourself a little (but not over the edge!). You’ll thank yourself later.

-Pace yourself. Many teens attempt to cram several courses into one or two years. Don’t do that! You’ll only stress yourself out. Think ahead and try to even out your courses as much as possible throughout high school. For your senior year, attempt to take as few courses as you can. You’ll be busy filling out applications, and you won’t want to waste time writing five papers due at the same time.

-If you’re still unsure, seek guidance. Of course, if you are still feeling overwhelmed with your choices after this, talk to your parents, a teacher, or your guidance counselor. It may not seem like they will make a difference, but, trust me, they can be extremely helpful during this process!

I hope these tips were helpful and that they made choosing your courses a little bit easier. Good luck!


Steps for Preparing for College in High School

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Steps for Preparing for College in High School

By Krista Zimmerman

When the frenzy of preparing for college sets in, so does chaos and confusion. Most people become consumed with picking a school, choosing a major, saving money, and obtaining oodles of scholarships. This kind of strategy though leaves many people feeling depressed and freaked out. The key to successful college preparation is to know what is really important. There is a way to be confident when it is time to walk onto that campus, even if you do not have everything perfectly laid out.


As admission letters begin to arrive in the mailbox, lots of students begin to feel like they are sinking in a pile of envelopes, stamps, and promises that are probably not as dazzling as they seem. So, what is the smart thing to do? Mainly, it is avoiding choosing that one perfect campus. It is okay to have a choice college or university. But, by keeping your mind open to endless possibilities, you can prevent being disappointed later. Also, working on obtaining a high GPA will ensure you a better chance of getting accepted to lots of colleges and universities. Therefore, the most precise way of preparing to attend college is not picking out a campus, but it is making sure that you can get into any campus that you choose. Nothing is worse than picking out your top ten colleges and then not getting accepted to any of them. Focusing on grades in high school will prevent this scenario from happening.

Many students have the mindset that they need to choose a major as quickly as possible. Guidance counselors approach kids in the eighth grade asking them, ‘What do you want to do after you graduate high school?’ Unfortunately, this question that we hear before we even get to high school drives the next four years of our lives. It is as if we need to answer this question or else we will be doomed to poverty. It would make it much easier if guidance counselors would just ask us ‘What do you want to study when you get to high school?’ So, why not pretend that is what they asked us? Because, guess what? Not knowing what major we want to get by the eighth grade or even by eleventh grade summer is not going to doom us to poverty. Actually, it will not even doom us from going to college. Statistics show that many people that receive a major in a particular field do not even end up working in that field. So why pick a hard fast major before you even know what you are interested in? High school is a time to explore. Taking lots of different electives, getting involved in clubs, community activities, and exploring your talents will prepare you to choose a major that actually fits your personality and abilities. Being driven towards a single major in high school may just land you with a job that you hate someday. If you really want to prepare for college, and more importantly for your future afterwards, then you should spend your high school years discovering your interests.

Saving money and receiving lots of scholarships are important, but they should not be the focus of your college preparation. It is more important to make sure that you get good grades and know what you want to study. After all, what good is it to work tirelessly and save tons of money if it hurts your grades? Colleges and universities are not looking for rich high school students. They are looking for diligent students with good grades. Those types of students, in turn, will have a higher probability of scholarships falling into their lap. Not only this, but, by having a major picked out that is actually suitable, you will not waste all your hard earned money for nothing.

There is no clear cut guide to preparing for college. However, there are things that will definitely make the preparation process easier. Success will come from putting your priorities in their proper order. Little distractions are bound to creep up during the college preparation process. But, with a decent plan in place, the come paranoia caused by college planning can be avoided.


The College Application Process

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The College Application Process

If you are approaching your senior year, you are probably working on filling out applications. I am in the same situation, so I will share with you some of the tips that I have learned along the way.

  • Start early. Even if you think that it will not take long to fill out an application with only a couple of pages, you will still need time to gather recommendation letters and transcripts and, of course, essays. It is good to give yourself as much time as possible.

  • Write in pencil. Just saying.

  • If you don’t know when a college opens up their application for the semester to which you are applying, call! That’s what they are there for.

  • Write your essays before filling out your applications so you do not have to postpone sending in your application until you write the essay.

  • Check to see if the colleges you are applying to prefer online applications. Some do, and some even offer an application fee waiver if you apply online.

  • Find the dates that scholarship applications open up. Most colleges require separate applications for merit scholarships.

  • I think anywhere from three to ten is a good number of colleges to apply to. Of course, this is just my opinion. How many colleges are you applying to?



Back-to-School Tips

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Back-to-School Tips

Join clubs! Extracurricular activities look good on college applications, and it is also a good way to meet friends.

Volunteer as much as you can, both inside and outside of school. That also looks good on college applications, and you can help someone! Who doesn’t like helping people?

Don’t talk, text, or pass notes during class. You won’t learn anything, and there is a good chance that you will get in trouble.

Don’t spread rumors about people. Mean Stinks! ( )

Bring a pair of headphones to block out noise during study hall if you need to.

Walk and talk! Try not to be late for class because of talking with your friends.

Sit with the people in the cafeteria who are sitting alone. No one should sit alone!

Be kind! You are guaranteed to make friends.

School is not a fashion show; try not to worry about what everyone else is wearing. Wear clothes that you like!

Don’t succumb to peer pressure! Check out our Drugs and Alcohol issue!

When you first get to college, don’t let all of the freedom go to your head. Whether or not you think it is, it is not a good idea to party every night.

Finally, the age-old tip: just be yourself. Don’t try to change to get anyone to like you. It might sound cheesy, but it’s true.

Eat a satisfying breakfast every day. You don’t want to be hungry in class!

Try to choose the healthiest options from the lunch selection, or bring your own! Greasy, fatty foods will make you feel sluggish.

These school tips vary by grade, so try to apply them to your situation:

Never pass up the opportunity to attend an open office session with your teacher if you need help.

Tutoring does not make you stupid; it shows that you realize that you have a responsibility toward your education. There is no shame in that.

Check with your counselor to see how many credits you need to graduate, and plan accordingly.

Take challenging courses. If there is a particular subject that you can do with ease, take the honors or AP version of it every chance that you get.

Study! Study! Study! You can’t learn something unless you practice it!

Take good notes. Make note of any bold words or phrases and any vocabulary words, and keep them in a folder or binder for future reference. Write down any key concepts, as well. Summarize lengthy text, and try to find the main ideas of that text. Write down the lesson objectives, those things that you are supposed to know by the end of the lesson, and answer them while you are reading through your lessons. Ask your teacher if it is okay for you to bring in a recorder so that you can listen to the lesson again later, especially if the content is difficult.

If you don’t understand a concept, ask your teacher to explain it to you.

Start a study group.

Make sure to write down any test dates so that you know to study in advance to those dates.

Make sure to organize all of your homework into separate folders. Wading them it up into balls and cramming into your locker is not going to help you review later…and it is going to take extra time to get your books out between classes.

When you are reading a paper, make sure to read it out loud. Sometimes you can catch errors that way, especially in tone. Also, make sure to check for spelling and grammar errors; you can do that easily by plugging into a Word document, and using the spell/grammar check on it. If you are unsure of a word, look it up in a dictionary! Use a variety of words; repetitiveness is not always attractive!

Don’t just take classes that are required; take classes that interest you. School, high school especially, is a time when you get to learn what you are good at and, more importantly, what you like to do. Explore!

Read. Read all of the time. Read the classics, even if they are the “children” versions. You are most likely going to have to read them anyway, so you might as well get a head start. If you feel that the original versions are too advanced for you, read the simplified versions so that you at least understand the plot of the book. Write down any vocabulary words that you don’t understand, and look them up in a dictionary.

Take a foreign language. Take two foreign languages! Expand your knowledge of cultures besides your own.

Please, don’t just get through school barely passing. Try! I know that it is easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed, but it is worth it! These grades, these experiences that you are going through right now play a large role in your future.

College is important. I know, I know, it’s another four years of school work. Also, the work is even more difficult than high school. But a lot of jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. I am not saying that you have to go to college to be “successful,” whatever that means, but it will help to increase your knowledge of the world around you, and give you the necessary tools to change it.

-Alex Stepp

*Disclaimer: Back-to-school tips are not a new concept. Therefore, these tips have probably been repeated, though I used no other sources than my own mind while creating these tips. If I have used your words, please notify me immediately, and I will give you proper credit. Thank you.*