Getting into college isn’t the same as it was a generation ago. Nowadays the earlier you start planning the better your chances of getting into the college of your (or your son or daughter’s) choice. It’s unfortunate that children have to start getting ready even before high school, but the upside is that improving grades and study skills can’t be bad for them either.

Students now are taking the PSAT tests in middle school to get them used to taking standardized tests. When preparing for high school they should request brochures from the colleges they plan to attend in order to find out what the requirements are to get in. Then parents should sit down with them and go over what classes and extra-curricular activities would benefit them. Everything you do – the classes you take, the grades you get, and the activities that you do outside school all play a part in consideration for college entrance.

Most colleges accept either an SAT or ACT test for admittance. Learning how to take these tests so you feel comfortable and understand how the questions are asked and the points are accessed will help improve test scores. Taking a speed reading class or studying memory techniques will also give you a great advantage over the competition.

I have a few basic study skills that will help prepare:

1. Schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor as soon as possible – if they are available in the eighth grade, or during the summer before you start high school you can work with them to put your schedule together. Tell the counselor exactly what you would like to do (remember, you are not locked into anything right now, but if they know what you are interested in they can help you find a course of study you will like will also get you into your college of choice. Continue to work with the counselor over the next four years, asking for advice as well as re-evaluating what you want to do.

2. Don’t take easy classes. You may be tempted to take easy classes for an easy grade, but the fact is colleges look at the challenges of the courses you took, not just your GPA. You also will continue to add new brain cells the more you push your brain to do things it is not comfortable with. You are going to need those extra cells in the coming years!

It doesn’t hurt to take some summer classes when school is in recess, or attend some community college classes in your junior and senior years. This will further your chances of admission to better schools, and add extra credits to your portfolio.

3. Don’t kid yourself – grades matter! No matter how much extra you do outside the classroom, don’t rely on extra credit and SAT/ACT scores to get you in. No matter how smart you are, and how easy you whiz through the standardized tests if you look as it you are skating in school and just getting by it won’t look good to the admissions office. Getting C’s when you could easily get A’s by doing your homework is a no-no. They would prefer to take a C student who worked hard to get that grade than a C student who just did what he had to for a passing grade. Also, don’t let your senior year slide because you are ahead with extra credit classes, they do look at senior grades as well.

4. Learn a foreign language. The world is shrinking and the more you are able to communicate in it the easier it will be. You also have language requirements to meet in high school and college, so four years of a foreign language will help you get a foot up on your college language requirements.

5. Take advantage of your teachers. Teachers became teachers to help young people learn and get ahead. They want to see you do the very best you can, so talk to them after class as to how you can get extra credit; or how hey can assist you with a lesson that is giving you a hard time. Despite what you may think, teachers have learned a lot over the years and they are more than anxious to share that knowledge with you. NEVER be afraid to ask for help if you need it. A teacher who sees you are trying your best will do their best to help you.

6. Practice taking standardized tests. Attend a seminar in how to take the SAT test and what to look for. Go online and you will find numerous reputable sites that will help you take practice tests and give you feedback that will help you do well on the tests. If you go into the real test with the comfort that you are prepared you will eliminate any blockages in memory, and do much better. Planning ahead is the best defense.

7. Get involved! You show your potential for leadership when you participate in outside activities. Find your passion – whether it is politics, music, sports, etc, and go for it. Run for office, help the coach strategize, join the band or choir – all are great for improving your social skills and helping you to mature. It also doesn’t hurt for you to do charity work. Some high schools even require it in order for you to graduate. Helping others builds character.

This is Ron White,  memory keynote speaker. I believe that it’s never too early to prepare for college and your future. As a memory coach I have seen the value in taking memory improvement classes, learning speed-reading and planning ahead in order to be confident when confronted with a test like the SAT or ACT.


Sources: – 9th Grade College Preparation: