What You Need to Know About College as a Sophomore or Freshman

From your current vantage point as a freshman or sophomore in high school, college may still look like a distant dream. But the reality is, it's right around the corner. Despite how you feel now, your time in high school will actually fly by! That's why it's wise to start thinking ahead. Here are a few important things to keep in mind on your journey to college--which surprisingly begins the moment you set foot in high school.

Set Goals. A man named Zig Ziglar once said, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time." 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 kind of person do you want to be? What's important to you? Do you want to help people? Is it important that you're financially well off? What sorts of careers interest you? From there, just work backwards. What college major might help you achieve these goals? Which schools offer these majors? What parts of the country are most appealing to you, when it comes to choosing a college? Though certainly not necessary at this stage in the game, it's never too early to do a little research and start making a list of potential colleges. Consider setting up a meeting with your high school guidance counselor and map out the classes you will need in order to be ready for college in a few years.

Study Hard. Once you have some basic goals in mind, try to envision the high school GPA (grade point average) you'd like to aim for. The more competitive your career fields and colleges of choice, the more your GPA will matter. Never believe that grades are unimportant! Your grades from 9th and 10th grade will be what colleges begin to look at during your junior and senior years as you apply for college and those much-sought-after academic scholarships. You will definitely increase your odds by keeping your grades up. This will require developing good time management and strong study habits. Keep in mind that colleges care about the kinds of classes you take, as much or more than the grades themselves. In most cases, a "B" in an AP (advanced placement) class is actually weighted as better for your GPA than an "A" in a regular class. So, challenge yourself whenever possible.

Try New Things. You have probably been told that colleges are looking for students who are well-rounded. And it's true! Colleges look to see that you've participated in a variety of clubs, sports, and extra-curricular activities. But don't just do these things 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). Choose to invest yourself in things you naturally love or that genuinely interest you. And if you're not sure, the only way to find out is by trying! Jump in and experience the opportunities that are all around you, whether that be joining a foreign film club, trying out for the ski team or volunteering at your local animal shelter. Taking risks is what helps you figure out who you are, what you're good at and what brings you to life. This in turn, will refine and redirect your life goals.

Relax! Finally, and perhaps most importantly: do not stress out about college. While it's wonderful to keep it in mind and to work towards your goals, high school is a unique time of life that is meant to be fun! So, enjoy this season! It's your last chance to soak up being a kid. Savor every moment with your friends and family and trust that the next stage will be filled with equally exciting adventures!

By Rachelle Wiggins, a Christian College graduate