You will probably hear this throughout your high school career from guidance counselors or teachers, but it is still important: Do your best to hone in on your skills and interests in high school and then stick with them. When I was in high school I dabbled in lots of activities and sports. Once I started applying for college I had a hard time expressing what I truly liked and what I was excellent at because I didn’t stick with something throughout high school.
Find out what you want to stick with
Trying new things can be good because they can make you well-rounded. However, colleges and even employers want to know that you have talent and commitment, not just a desire for new things. I think some admission counselors found it strange that I played volleyball for a year, then soccer for a year, then softball for two years, etc. Of course, you shouldn’t do things just to get in college. Do what you love!
Another tip on activities: Don’t give up on what you love during your senior year. Lots of my friends took it easy their senior year because they were worried about having too much to do and because they wanted a break. When you are a senior you are at the top of your game, and the rest of the high school looks up to you. Do your best as a senior and don’t take it easy because you think you deserve it. Be an example and show your school your talents! It will encourage and inspire them, plus it will be good for your development.
Take charge of your time
Time management is crucial in high school. Have discipline when you begin the college and scholarship search. Make sure you don’t spend too much time on the “searching.” It is easy to waste time browsing college websites or looking through scholarships on Fastweb and the Internet. Set time limits and set goals, so you don’t look at a hundred scholarships and then only apply for one of them; trust me, that can happen.
Take an hour or so to browse through scholarships that are a good fit for you, then spend the rest of the week working on that scholarship without searching for any new scholarships. Once the week is up or once you finish the scholarship, start looking again. Doing it this way prevents procrastination and makes the process not as overwhelming, because you only have one scholarship to think about at a time.
Explore a variety of post-high school options
Finally, throughout my whole high school “career” I only considered going to college when I graduated -- until my second semester of senior year. In February I was waitlisted at my top school, and I was a little depressed about it. I didn’t want to think about college for a little bit so I started exploring gap-year ideas. The guidance counselors and teachers at my school didn’t talk about the possibility of taking a gap year, but considering my situation I wanted to look deeper into it.
I found a program I was super excited about called City Year, an Americorps program, and I eagerly applied. The application process was long and competitive and I didn’t find out I was accepted into this program until after graduation. Even though the wait was long, I couldn’t be more excited to move to New York City to work with City Year, helping children in school.
Even better, the college I was waitlisted at accepted me later on and I was able to defer my admission to that school for the 2014-15 school year. I was very happy with how things worked out, but I wish I had been aware of different options for life after graduation sooner.
City Year program, New York, N.Y.
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minneapolis