It may be hard to believe, but you’re already almost halfway through high school. By the end of your sophomore year, you’ll be just over a year away from the college application process. It’s time to really buckle down.
Sophomore Year Grades and Course Rigor
The biggest thing that colleges look for in applicants is good grades in tough courses. Hopefully, with freshman year under your belt, you’ve got a good idea of just how much of an academic challenge you can reasonably handle your sophomore year.
Keep a close eye on your grades. It’s a lot easier to fix a problem if you’re proactive about it than to try to dig yourself out of a deep hole at the end of the semester.
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 probably have some classmates who are doing really well in the class you’re struggling with. See if you can organize a study group to help you keep up in class.
- Look for a good subject tutor to help you catch up and get ahead. Contact your local C2 Education center to learn how our expert tutors can help you succeed in class.
If you haven’t already considered which classes you want to take as a junior and senior, now’s the time. Create a plan so that you can make sure you cover any prerequisites for Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.
Learn more about how college admissions officers look at grades.
Find out what college admissions officers learn from your class choices.
SAT Subject Tests and AP Exams
If you’re taking any AP classes this year, you’ll need to pencil in time to prep for the end of course AP exams. Good scores on AP exams give you the opportunity to earn college credit for your high school coursework, so it’s definitely worth the time and effort to prep for these rigorous exams.
Bonus: prepping for AP exams helps you kill two birds with one stone because the same material on the AP exam will be covered by the corresponding SAT Subject Test.
PSAT Prep Starts Sophomore Year
Juniors who take the PSAT/NMSQT in October are automatically considered for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship. Only about 1 percent of test-takers earn this scholarship, so it’s a big deal in the world of college admissions. In fact, the scholarship is so prestigious that colleges like to collect National Merit Commended Scorers and Semifinalists (you don’t find out whether you actually won the scholarship until after college admissions decisions are made).
From both a financial aid standpoint and a college admissions standpoint, it’s worth your while to reach for a top score on the PSAT.
Bonus: The PSAT is really just a slightly shorter, slightly easier version of the SAT, so starting PSAT prep now gives you a head start on SAT prep later.
Check out our Complete PSAT Guide.
Narrow Down Your Interests
Colleges generally prefer to see students who develop deep interests than those who dabble shallowly in a lot of different extracurricular activities. Sophomore year is a good time to start winnowing down your activities to focus more intensely on just a small handful of things that you’re truly passionate about.
Visit Some College Campuses
You don’t have to travel to your dream college for a campus visit to be worthwhile. You can learn a lot about what you do and don’t want on a college campus by visiting local schools that you might not be particularly interested in attending. Maybe the flagship state university campus seems overwhelmingly huge and crowded—you’ve learned that you probably won’t feel comfortable at a really big school. Maybe the little private college one town over has a dining hall that makes your mouth water—good dining options might be something to look out for as you explore other schools.
Learn about the five things you should do on every college visit.
Rumor has it that junior year is the hardest year of all. Rumor is right. Don’t waste your summer—make sure you get ahead of the game on your AP coursework and SAT or ACT prep so that you can have a successful junior year.