Your Guide to Freshman Year


Welcome to our year-by-year breakdown of how to prepare for college applications! Our first post in this series is all about preparing for your Freshman Year. Please note that this guide is a very generalized plan—use it as a starting point, and feel free to tailor it to your own situation. For more personalized tips and advice about applying, check out our virtual advising services!

  • Try to enjoy yourself and just get used to high school! Freshman year is a great chance to explore, experiment, and figure out what you like.

  • As a freshman, you don’t have too much freedom with your course schedule (since you have to take PE and many classes are only available to upperclassmen), but sign up for classes that interest you. Take challenging courses when you can, but don’t overwhelm yourself.

  • Consider taking those language, art, or career/tech classes now to take care of graduation requirements early on! This will help free up space in your schedule for junior and senior year, which is when you’ll probably have more options.

  • Keep up your grades! The UCs don’t count freshman year grades but most others do. Even if you don’t get all As, that’s totally okay! Just work hard to make sure that your grades generally have an upward trend over the next few years. Colleges understand that the adjustment from middle to high school can be hard, but still want to see you challenge yourself and improve over time.

  • Try out different study methods and figure out what works best for you. Learn how to manage your time and maintain a healthy school/extracurricular/social life/personal time balance. Getting to know yourself as a student often takes a lot of trial and error, and figuring out these things now will set you up for success for the rest of high school.

  • Attend club day at the beginning of the year, join lots of clubs, and stick with the ones you like the best. However, please don’t force yourself to do something just because you think it might “look good on an application”! You won’t be able to reflect on it meaningfully in your essays and it will just end up being a waste of time and energy.

  • If you can’t seem to find an extracurricular that you genuinely enjoy doing, consider starting something on your own! You could design a website, create a student organization, or even start your own business. Entrepreneurial thinking and risk taking are skills that will be useful even after you’re done with high school and applying to college.

  • Explore new extracurriculars. Freshman year is definitely not “too late” to try something new!

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