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It might seem a bit early to start thinking about applying to college when you’ve barely started high school, but remember: everything you do, even in your freshman year of high school, becomes part of your college application, so it’s important to make every year count.

Freshman Grades Are Important

The grades you earn freshman year count just as heavily toward your final high school GPA as the grades you earn senior year. One bad grade isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but every disappointing grade will make it harder for you to achieve the overall GPA you’ll need to get into your dream college.

Learn more about the role of grades in college admissions.
Find out how to handle a bad grade.

Be sure to pay attention to how you’re doing throughout each semester to make sure you keep your grades up. It’s much easier to fix a problem by being proactive than waiting until you’ve dug your course grade into a deep hole.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help

  • Your teachers are there to make sure you succeed. If you don’t understand something or if you’re struggling to pick up a new skill, ask your teacher if he or she offers help sessions before or after school.
  • You’ll probably have some classmates who will do really well in the class you’re struggling with. See if you can organize a study group to help you keep up in class.
  • You can always look for a good subject tutor to help you catch up and get ahead.

Find the Right Class Difficulty

Colleges value course rigor—how hard your classes are—almost as much as they value grades. This puts you in a tough spot: you need to be able to strike a balance between taking hard classes and getting top grades.

Learn more about why colleges look at your class difficulty when making admission decisions.

Although grades in your freshman year of high school will impact your overall GPA, colleges will scrutinize your junior and senior year grades much more closely and will be somewhat more forgiving of slightly lower grades early in your high school career. This means that freshman year is the best year for you to really challenge yourself to discover the right balance between hard classes and good grades.

Take the hardest classes you think you can handle. You won’t know for sure whether you can cut it unless you try. If those classes prove to be too much, you can always scale back next semester or next year. You’ll have a better idea of which classes will be right for you in the future when your grades will be examined more closely by colleges.

Make a Long-Term Plan

Look ahead to junior and senior year. What kinds of classes do you think you’ll want to take?

If you have a specific career in mind, you might want to explore electives in that particular area. If you’re hoping for admission to a selective college, you’ll want to look into the Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) options at your school.

Once you have an idea of what courses you might want to take, you can look into the prerequisites for those classes. This way, you can plan out which classes to take each semester in order to ensure that you balance grades and class difficulty, meet all graduation requirements, cover any prerequisites, and still get to take the classes you want to take as a junior and senior.

Planning ahead pays off!

Experiment with Extracurricular Activities

Colleges want to see students who explore their interests and pursue their passions. Freshman year is the best time to tackle that first part—exploring your interests. This is the year when you should attend meetings for any team, group, or organization that interests you. Hop from activity to activity until you find the ones that spark your passion, offer a good fit, and suit your schedule. Throughout the year, you can pick up and discard activities until you find the right mix.

Get Ready to Buckle Down

The closer you get to college applications, the more high-stakes things get. Make sure you’re ready for the college admissions race by maintaining good grades and staying involved during the summer. Consider visiting your local C2 Education center to create a college roadmap that will help you set goals to get into your dream college.