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How to Prepare for College During Your Sophomore Year of High School

This college admissions guide will steer you through the tasks you should complete during your sophomore year of high school to maximize your chances of getting accepted by your top choice colleges.

Click on a month below to find out what steps you should be taking.

Fall Semester:
Spring Semester:


College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - July


We understand – July is meant to be a carefree month!  However, you should think about maximizing your summer by adhering to these bullet points: 

  • We realize that the last thing you want to do in the middle of the summer is think about school.  However, since your schedule is (presumably) a little more relaxed, take a moment to reflect on your academic performance during freshman year.   Are you happy with the grades you earned?  Do you need to put forth more effort during this upcoming year?  Afterwards, assess your course selection for 10th grade.  Do you anticipate your classes being both challenging and realistic?  How do they relate to your abilities and interests?  If need be, there’s still plenty of time to alter your schedule.
  • Don’t just lie around all day, blasting the ac and playing Grand Theft Auto or Angry Birds.  Summer is a time to explore new activities and expand horizons.  Consider volunteering, traveling or even (gulp) finding a job.  You could gain insight, discover a passion or simply have some extra cash in your pocket.
  • During the summer, the stakes are lower and the pace is slower (we hope you appreciate that rhyme).  Therefore, it’s a good time to learn and/or test strategies for time management.  Try to carve out a schedule that includes a balance between work, play and rest.  And see if you can sneak in some time to start exploring your post-high school options.


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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - August


What a relief – you’re no longer on the lowest rung of the high school hierarchy.  However, this means that you are slowly inching along towards graduation.  Continue heading in the right direction with these steps:

  • Meet with your counselor/advisor to confirm that you’re on track to fulfilling all of your requirements.  Sadly, this probably means that you cannot bypass geometry.
  • We know – you still have three years until graduation.  However, college admissions (not to mention the real world) unfortunately requires a lot of planning.  Though there’s certainly no need to commit to anything yet, you should begin exploring your post-high school options.
  • So maybe last year you dabbled in a variety of extracurriculars, trying to get a taste for what you enjoy.  You should use sophomore year as a chance to begin dedicating yourself to the activies you really enjoy.  Colleges truly appreciate applicants who demonstrate commitment.  Of course, remember to keep track of your participation and achievements. 


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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - September

Sophomore year is an important building block in your high school career.  To ensure you build (or improve) upon the success or momentum of 9th grade, consider these tips:

  • We understand; you’d rather update your Facebook profile than update your parents on your life.  However, you should log off for a few minutes and have a conversation with them about your progress over the last school year.  What have your parents observed?  What have you learned about yourself?  Have your interests and ambitions shifted?  Are you meeting the goals you set for yourself?  A little reflection will help clarify whether you’re on the right track .

  • You should also make a point of meeting with your guidance counselor/advisor (maybe you can even schedule your appointment during gym class).  Discuss your class schedule to see how it fits into your plans for the future.  Additionally, use this time to take stock of your academic progress.  If you’re not wholly satisfied, ask for tips on effective studying habits and time management skills.

  • Uh-oh, standardized testing season will quickly be upon you.  Be sure you register to take the October PLAN exam.  (See your counselor for details.)

  • Sure, you only have one year of high school under your belt.  However, it can’t hurt to begin exploring the higher ed and career resources available at your school.  After all, the college admissions game is a lengthy and complex process.  And if any schools or programs pique your interest, you can start working towards meeting their requirements now.

  • Have you joined any clubs yet?  Seriously, what are you waiting for?  It’s important to get involved in your school and your community.  Extracurricular activities provide great opportunities for socializing, honing new skills and they’ll certainly enhance your college applications.

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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - October

With the advent of sophomore year comes more work and responsibility.  Be sure you continue to grow and thrive by adhering to the advice below.

  • Sadly, high school is full of standardized tests (beware of hand cramps!).  Make sure you register for and/or take the PLAN test (see your counselor for details).  Additionally, think about taking the PSAT (assuming your school policy permits it for 10th graders).  It’s a great, low stakes option for squeezing in some test prep/practice.  You’ll get a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses and a feel for the testing atmosphere.

  • We realize the sidelines can be both comfortable and inviting.  However, jumping into the fray is often more exciting and definitely more interesting.  If you haven’t already done so, consider getting involved in a school club or community group that interests you.  This will lead to richer life experiences and a well rounded college application.  Be sure to keep your personal file updated with your participation and achievements.

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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - November

Even though high school can sometimes feel interminable, graduation will be here before you know it.  It’s important to start pondering life beyond these hallways.

  • The future beckons and in the blink of an eye you’ll be a full fledged adult.  And adulthood likely (though not always) means finding/having a career track.  While there’s no need to plan out the next forty years of your life, it’s good to start contemplating career interests.  Do some initial online research and talk to friends and relatives about their own professional paths.  Indeed, learning about the route someone else took can sometimes help clarify your own.

  • We know it’s still relatively early into your high school career.  However, a little planning never hurt.  Start crafting a list of questions regarding college admissions.  The more you understand about the process, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel when it comes time to start filling out those applications.

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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - December

With the holidays just around the corner, you know your nosy aunt and uncle are going to ask all about your high school life.  Beat them to the proverbial punch and think about where you currently stand.

  • We know how much you love reflection, so why not carve out a time for some additional self-assessment?  By now, you should have the results for both your PLAN test and the PSAT (if you took it for practice).  Review those scores with your parents and guidance counselor.  Did you do better than expected?  Are there areas that call for improvement?  You can also use this time to review your academic progress.  Are you meeting your goals?  Should you stick with your second semester class schedule or make adjustments? 

  • Have you joined any new organizations or chaired any committees yet (no, we won’t stop harassing you about this)?  If so, be sure to update your personal records (including dates/times).

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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - January

At this juncture in your career, you’re a seasoned high school vet.  Though you’re still an underclassman, the future beckons!  Meet it head-on with these steps:

  • Make an appointment with your advisor/guidance counselor to review your academic progress.  You want to make sure you’re meeting your goals.

  • We know that the holidays just ended but you should start giving serious consideration to your schedule for next year.  After all, junior year is critical.  You’ll want to challenge but not overwhelm yourself.

  • You should consider slowly dipping your toe into the higher ed waters.  Explore your school’s College Resource Center to get an idea of what kind of university you might want to attend.

  • Are there schools you’re definitely curious about?  Be proactive and request information/pamphlets.  You can build your own personal college resource library.

  • If you haven’t yet, start participating in extracuriccular activities.  Aside from being fun and a great respite from schoolwork, they’ll also enhance your college applications.  Remember to keep a record of your involvement, work and achievements.

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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - February

Little known fact – winter is the best time to take stock of the present and plan for the future!

  • Your crucial junior year is just around the corner. Talk with your parents and guidance counselor about your progress and plans for your future. Once you have a firm idea of where you might be headed, you can register for the appropriate 11th grade courses.

  • We’ve said it before and we’ll take this moment to say it again, it’s important to explore new interests, become involved in your community and seek opportunities for leadership. Not only will these activities help flesh out your college apps, they’ll help flesh out your character too!

  • Contrary to popular opinion, books aren’t just for propping up broken tables or throwing at your siblings. It can actually be an enjoyable and enthralling experience to pick up a novel. We understand that, between academics and extracurriculars, you’re juggling a lot. However, reading can be relaxing, insightful and even help boost your SAT/ACT scores! Not bad for a couple hundred pages of paper.

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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - March

A little preparation goes a long way.  Ensure you’re on the right track with the following tips:

  • Oftentimes, it’s personal finances and not letters of admission that are the deciding factor of which college a student attends.  Talk with your parents about your college search and financing your post-secondary education.  Once you know where they stand, you can begin crafting a plan of attack (or at least start searching for aid options).
  • Career plans and professional aspirations often affect where someone attends college.  If you’re unsure of what you might want to do post-college, ask your counselor about career and personality inventories and career exploration activities available through your school.
  • College fairs and college nights are great starting points for your school search.  Be sure to visit any that are being held in your area (even if it’s at a rival high school).
  • As an added bonus, the materials you receive will help build your personal college library.
  • Finally, you should continue building a file/record/portfolio of your work and achievements.  Is this drilled into your head yet?

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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - April

Ah, spring of sophopmore year – the perfect time to make sure you’re well situated to launch your college search!

  • Talk with your parents about your college search and financing your post-secondary education.  Begin researching scholarship opportunities and attend college fairs together.  This will put you in a solid position when you’re ready to bump the search up a notch next year!       

  • We implore you - explore new interests and opportunities for extracurricular involvement be it athletics, music or community service!  This will allow you to continue to build your portfolio of activities and achievements.

  • A majority of schools require not only the SAT Reasoning Test but the SAT Subject Tests as well.  Peruse the subject tests that are offered.  A small number might actually be related to your 10th grade coursework.  If that’s the case, we suggest signing up for the June exam.  The fresher the material is in your mind, the stronger your score will be.

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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - May

Soon enough you’ll be an upperclassman.  Use this upcoming summer to prepare for the challenges and responsibilities that await you.

  • Before you know it, tuition bills will be arriving in your mailbox.  To make the experience more palatable (or at least more manageable), continue researching scholarships.  You’ll be surprised at the wealth of opportunities available.

  • This coming summer is the perfect time to explore new interests.  Try and seek out opportunities for employment, leadership training or community service.  Afterwards, build a Personal College Resource File (this will include your profile and resume or portfolio).

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College Admissions Guide: High School Sophomore Year - June

You’ve arrived at the half-way mark and you’re on the verge of two exciting (and stressful) years.  To ensure continued success (and limited breakdowns), might we suggest:   

  • Consider lending your talents to a community service project this summer.  We (practically) guarantee that it will be a fulfilling way to spend your time.  Who knows – you might just discover a latent passion (or possibly a future topic for your college essays)!  Whatever you ultimately decide to do, be sure to update your Personal College Resource File (including your profile and portfolio).

  • You know that bestseller that’s been sitting on your nightstand for weeks (or maybe even months)?  Think about picking it up!  Reading will keep your mind active and likely increase your vocabulary (which as you’re painfully aware is a large portion of the SATs).

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Don Munce