College may still look like a distant reality. But the truth is, it's right around the corner. It might seem unbelievable, but your time in high school will actually fly by! That's why it's smart to think ahead! Here are some critical principles to remember if you're college-bound:
- Set a Direction. Baseball great Yogi Berra, known for his wise yet humorous sayings once said, "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." Where do you want to be in ten years? What sort of direction do you have for your life? Even though you might not be able to map out a perfect "plan" for yourself, you know enough to start setting some goals. What do you want your life to look like? What are your priorities? Showing compassion? Financially success? Adventure? What sorts of careers interest you and reflect these priorities? From there, work backwards. What college major would be most useful in your career field? Which colleges offer these majors? What part of the country is most appealing to you, when it comes to choosing a college home? Though certainly not necessary at this stage in the game, it's never too early to start researching and make a list of potential colleges. Meet with your guidance counselor and discuss which classes you'll need to be ready for college.
- Take Academics Seriously. With these goals in mind, envision the high school GPA you'd like to earn. Grades really do matter and will be one of the primary considerations when it comes to getting accepted into college. Also, although it's competitive to attain academic scholarships, you definitely increase your odds by keeping your grades up. This will require developing good time management and strong study habits. Recognize that colleges take into account the types of classes you take, not just the bottom line grade. In many schools a "B" in an AP class is actually weighted as an "A." So, challenge yourself when possible.
- Figure Out What You Love. Colleges are looking for well-rounded students who have participated in a variety of sports, clubs and extra-curricular activities. However, beware of doing these things in order to make your future resume "look good." After all, only about 16% of high school athletes will go on to compete in sports at the college level (and less than 2% will get any sort of athletic scholarship). Invest your energy in things you genuinely love. And if you're not sure what interests you, jump in and experience the opportunities around you, whether that be joining chess club, trying out for color guard or volunteering at your local hospital. Taking risks allows you to grow and figure out who you really are, where you're naturally gifted and what brings you joy in life. These experiences, even the not-so-good ones, have value in reshaping and redirecting your long-range goals and life direction.
- Enjoy the Journey! Finally and most importantly: don't stress about your future. While it's wise to keep it in mind and work towards your college dreams, high school is a great time of life that's meant to be fun! So, enjoy the season for what it is! Soak up being a kid. Savor every moment with family and friends and know that more exciting adventures are yet to come in college!