Freshmen & Sophomores: What to Do NOW to Start College Prep

illustrative image with images of different hobbies

Even if you haven’t completed your first year of high school yet, you have undoubtedly already been asked about your college plans. You could have been in middle school less than a year ago and your teachers, parents, and school counselors might already be on you about where you want to go to college and what you want to study there.  It’s a lot and it can make it seem like you have to have all of that figured out already.  

Fortunately, if you’re a freshman or a sophomore, you don’t have to have much of that nailed down just yet. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do right now to make your life easier when you start applying to colleges, and that’s where we can help. 


Hey, you’ve almost finished your first year of high school. Congrats! Ninth grade is a big transition and a huge jump in responsibility from middle school. Applying to colleges is still a couple of years away but here are some tips that will both help you with the end of this school year and set you up for success in college.

Keep your grades up. It may seem cliche but your grade point average (GPA) remains one of the most important factors in your college application, especially as more schools move to being test-optional with regards to the SAT and ACT. As a freshman, you still have plenty of time to build a solid GPA so you’ll definitely want to focus your energy there.

Hone your time management and study skills. The way you study and complete your assignments is almost as important as doing them in the first place and now’s the time to really practice those skills. Checklists, calendars, and planners are all great starting points; the most important thing is to find what helps you manage the increasing number of papers, reading assignments, and club meetings you have coming your way.

Get involved with something you care about. Seriously, find a sport or club that you vibe with and dive in. You’ll be happier, the next three years will be a lot more fun, and you’ll have great experiences to draw upon for those college apps. It’s a win-win-win.


Before anything else, what’s written to freshmen above applies to you, too: keep your grades up, hone your time management and study skills, and get involved with something you care about.  

After that, it’s time to start thinking about what colleges you might be interested in. I know I said earlier that you didn’t have to have anything set in stone, and that’s true, but now’s the time to take a personal inventory of the kinds of subjects you’d like to study in college. Researching degree programs in a specific field is a great way to dip your toe into the college application process. 

Similarly, you should start thinking about testing. Was your PSAT10 in range for the National Merit Scholarship Program? If so, it’s time to make a study plan for the PSAT. Have you taken a practice SAT or ACT, yet? If not, schedule one for this spring. Having an idea of which is your stronger test puts you in a great spot going into your junior year and we have a free practice testing event coming up in late April.  

Lastly, break out that planner we talked about earlier and see when in your junior year might be the best time for you to take your official tests. Make sure to consider your whole schedule: schoolwork, school activities, sporting events, etc. Some students even opt to start studying during the summer before junior year. If you’re completing algebra 2 this year and have a full plate next year, summer studying is something you should consider.

Navigating high school is challenge enough without even considering the added stress of college prep, so hopefully these tips will help you tackle these next years even more confidently.  And when the going gets tough, you don’t have to go it alone! Our Executive Function Coaches can help you flex those planning muscles and our AP/IB and Academic Tutors can help you get your best grades even in your hardest classes.

Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 202-558-5644 or