Action Plan Freshman

Sophomore Year: Getting A Head start On Your Future

So here it is — first year of Senior High. (Oh, yeah, you were a Freshman last year but for most Americans you were still in the same old building with the Junior High kids, so it doesn’t count. Now you’re probably in a new building and it’s THE BIG TIME.)

At this point, high school graduation and college seems like a long way away — but the fact is, if you’re thinking at all about going to college, it’s the time to start getting your act together. In fact, even if college is not part of your game plan, there’s stuff you can be doing now to point you in a direction that’s both financially rewarding and mentally satisfying.

So what are your next moves?


1. Meet with your guidance counselor.

Now’s the time to get a game plan. Meet with your guidance counselor and talk about where you want to be when you graduate. College? A job? What about after college? Your counsel can help you sort out what classes you should be taking and what activities can help move you toward your goals.

No idea what you want to be doing in three years? Your guidance counselor can help you with that, too.

2. Sort out your goals

When you’re 15, the whole world’s your oyster. But too many choices can be confusing. If you’ve got a good picture of where you want to go with your live, go for it! If not, it may just be that you’re not asking yourself the right questions.

What do you enjoy doing? Nothing’s too ridiculous. There are people who make money smelling perfumes and tasting wines. Remember, if you enjoy it, you’re likely to spend the time learning to be good at it, and when you’re good at something, the money follows.

What are you good at? A good way to start any career is to exploit your strengths. It will give you a head start over everyone else.

What kind of work suits your personality? Do you like working with people or working on your own? Do you take initiative or prefer to have clear instructions? How comfortable are you with taking risks? Are you detail-oriented or do you see the big picture? What’s your learning style? All these factors and more can determine how comfortable you are with a particular job. Your high schools may have given you personal inventory tests that help you sort this out. If not, you can find a professional personal assessment on

Now that you’ve got a better picture of yourself, meet with your guidance counselor to talk about what kind of a job you’d like. Tell him or her what you enjoy, what you’re good at and what kind of work environment you think would suit you. Ask for suggestions what kinds of jobs might fit those goals.

At the same time, take advantage of any career fairs in your area. And if you’ve got some general idea of a field that interests you, try to meet people who are working in the field. Pick their brains on the kinds of jobs available and how you get started. Volunteer work can also open new possibilities for you. Working in a zoo, a health care center, with children, or for a cause can make you aware of career possibilities.

3. Take the pre-SAT tests.

SATs are required for entrance to most colleges and universities in the US and Canada. You take those in your junior and senior years. This year, though, it’s useful to take the PSAT/NMSQT. It’s a sample of what you’ll face in the SATs and can give you a rough idea of what your scores might be.

The PSAT/NMSQT is given at your school in October, but you’ll have to sign up in Sept. See your guidance counselor for the dates and application forms. At the same time, pick up a copy of the PSAT/NMSQT Student Bulletin and take the practice test. You can get additional practice at There you’ll find past questions and skill-building tutorials.

When you get your scores back, look carefully at them. Are you satisfied with them? If not, now is the time to sign up for SAT tutorials and do the extra work you need to get the scores you need to get into the college of your choice.

Mark your calendar for next fall for the SAT exams. The first ones are in October, with registration about a month before. Your guidance counselor can give you the dates. The SATs are given in the fall and spring. If you take your first ones next fall, you’ll have three cracks at getting a high score before your college admission application are due in January of your senior year.


4. Make yourself more competitive

The entrance exams and your transcript are only part of what colleges look at when you’re applying. Admission departments like to see well-rounded students who are involved in areas outside of academics. Try to get yourself involved in after-school activities, including sports, music or drama, and some sort of social service. Showing leadership in any of these areas is a big plus, especially if you’re aiming for one of the colleges or universities that’s harder to get into.

Push yourself a little. Colleges like to see four years of English, history, math, science and a language. If you’re good in a field, think of taking Advanced Placement and go for the enhanced/enriched courses in that area. Sure they might be a little harder, but they’ll look better on your transcript. Plus, you’ll learn more and that will make college easier.

Set some personal goals, too. Challenge yourself. Whether it’s running 10K, designing and programming your own computer game or reading 100 books this term, find some goal that arouses your passion. Get excited!

This is time to sort out a moral framework for yourself, too. What do you stand for? Contrary to what you see in some movies and on TV, it’s the people with integrity who get ahead the most – because people can trust them. Every single relationship – from a million dollar contract to a new boyfriend or girlfriend – comes down to trust. That means being honest and up front, even when it’s risky. Cultivating caringness is another attitude that will pay off in the long run, when people realize you have their best interests at heart. And it’s amazing how many doors a little bit of courtesy will open for you.

Start looking at schools. Get on-line and check out which colleges and universities you might like to attend. They all have web sites. Once you’ve got a list, start visiting college campuses to get an idea of what the school is like and whether you’d enjoy going there. Most colleges make visiting students welcome and may even assign one of their students to take you around and answer your questions. A good place to start is your local community college.

If you haven’t done it already, start talking to your family about how much college costs and where the money’s going to come from. Are you going to have to help pay for your own education? Maybe it’s time to start thinking about a part-time job.