Why the Road to College Starts in Freshman Year – Part 1

Fall is back-to-school time and for many parents and their high school seniors, it’s a scary time of the year.  If it happens to be the first born in the family, there’s even anxiety. If it’s an immigrant with a first-born and no history of applying to US universities, or a family with no previous college-going family members at all, it’s pretty much panic time. Throw in a high school counselor who has his hands full and the lost-at-sea, rudderless feeling is yours for the taking.
Welcome to Fall of senior year of high school. Alternatively, you could be a more seasoned, organized, parent and student duo, who have begun planning for college since Freshman year. This series of posts should help you get started. 
Freshman & Sophomore Year – Begin Laying the Foundation
Know Your End Goal – Even if it’s Kinda, Sorta, Perhaps
Some high schools offer credit courses in the summer to even incoming freshman students. Explore the possibility of taking those so you can make room in your schedule, if needed, for a more demanding class in the school year.  
Then there is the weighted Grade Point Average (GPA). Find out if Advanced Placement (AP) carries more weight at your high school. Have some idea, even if it’s a vague one, as to what kinds of colleges you’d like to attend. There are community colleges, state schools, top tier schools and extremely selective schools such as the Ivy League’s. If a selective school is even a blimp on your radar, not taking Honors or AP Classes, if your school offers them, can be a strike against you. Find out what prerequisites you may need, if any, to be able to take AP classes.
Besides the weighted GPA, why take an AP class? In instances where universities accept the AP credits accumulated, you may very well shave off time spent at the university since you don’t necessarily have to repeat those classes. Not only does that mean you could potentially pay less in tuition, but it means you could graduate sooner and perhaps even start earning a living that much quicker.  That said, not all universities accept AP course credits and even when they do, it may not be worth skipping that class. The curriculum covered in an AP class may or may not  cover all the ground that a university class does. You may want to consider whether a class is a building block to your major before deciding to “cash in” the AP Credits and skip it in university. 
Besides courses that are high school requirements for graduation, speak with your counselor to ensure that the rest of your courses align with the type of university you want to attend. In Illinois, for instance, three years of high school math meet high school graduation requirements. However, to pursue engineering, universities often require four years of Math in high school. To attend a California school, you must have a year of work in atleast one Arts-related course. To attend a competitive school, four years of a high school second language is often the requirement, versus the two years required for graduation requirements in states such as Illinois. Bottom line – think of high school as college preparatory years and be sure to consult early with your counselor. 
Disclaimer: All information on this blog should not be used as the sole source of information on a subject. It is valid at the time of its writing but may have changed since.