The Most Important Task of Freshman Year: College Applications (2023)

High School Freshmen Should Begin Preparing For College Early, While They Still Have Limitless Options Ahead Of Them...

Freshman year is the time to build habits, explore colleges, and learn how to talk to your counselor. You don’t need to invest a huge amount of time into preparing for college early, but a few hours of reading and learning throughout the year can save you from a potentially hectic senior year.

Building a solid academic and extracurricular track record are two of the best ways to increase your chances of being admitted into your ideal college, and that work begins your freshman year. Freshmen who actively take interest in various colleges and what they have to offer will feel more confident when they eventually make a decision. While it may feel like it’s too early to start thinking about attending college, your high school freshman year is a great time to get the ball rolling.


The Case For Starting College Prep Early

Freshman year is not too early for you to start thinking about preparing for college.

With so many factors that determine whether you’ll be accepted into a college or not, you’ll want to use all four years of high school to give yourself the best chance of being admitted to college. One of the biggest advantages of starting your application prep early is that you can create a college-ready plan to minimize the amount of work and stress you face during your senior year.

By starting your college application prep your freshman year, you can prepare for college slowly over time rather than rushing to finish everything your senior year. Making plans as a high school freshman with your college goals in mind allows you to start tailoring your high school experience toward your ideal college.

(Video) Don’t Fall Into This College Application Trap

For example, if you know you want to be a lawyer, you can join a debate club freshman year and take a civics-oriented elective class. While these two small steps may not seem like much in the bigger picture of getting into college, they allow you to build a track record of sustained interest and dedication that colleges look for in potential students.

Why High School Freshmen Need To Think About College

Your freshman year of high school is an ideal time to start preparing yourself for college applications. Once you start working on building an academic and extracurricular track record, you’ll give yourself plenty of material to work with when you eventual start writing college applications. By spending a few hours throughout your freshman year preparing for your college applications, you can make your senior year go more smoothly.


While colleges may not consider your C in English as a deal-breaker, it’s still important to begin taking your academics seriously as a high school freshman. Freshman year is the right time to begin exploring your academic interests, take classes that will set you up for more challenging advanced placement courses, and begin planning for what you’ll study throughout the rest of high school.

Your main focus during your high school freshman year should be to maintain good grades and prepare for the long academic road ahead.

While it isn’t necessary to start taking the ACT or SAT until your junior year, high school freshmen can still benefit from taking a practice test to see how they would do. In addition, many strategies recommended for use during these standardized tests can be used in an everyday exam or test throughout your high school career.

(Video) The High School Freshman Advice you NEED to Know: How to get into Top Colleges


Extracurricular activities help show college admissions officials that you’re capable of committing to projects, groups, or ideas that inspire you. Exploring extracurricular activities that interest you is a great way to spend time preparing for your college applications. Often, colleges care more about the dedication you show to your extracurricular activity than they care about what the extracurricular activity actually is.

Freshmen can take advantage of joining their extracurricular activities early, as many clubs and organizations recognize seniority in some way. In addition, if you have been involved as a member of your activity since freshman year, it may be easier to secure a coveted leadership position that will strengthen your college application.


Regardless of what you plan on attending college for, your writing skills will play a key role in helping you get there. College applications require personal essays and short responses to questions, meaning your writing skills are key. Students who haven’t intentionally practiced their essay writing skills may struggle to write responses that speak to who they are as a student.

For freshman preparing for their college applications, learning how to write with brevity and clarity can give them an edge when it comes time to write their essay responses.

However, the savvy high school freshman shouldn’t limit themselves to just learning how to write compelling essays. The college application process may also require that several of your teachers write letters of recommendation for you, and the best way to convince a teacher to write a good recommendation is through a professional email or letter. In addition to learning how to write professional emails, you should also consider learning how to write thank you notes and follow-up emails to make networking feel a little less intimidating down the road.

(Video) How to Apply to College | How to College | Crash Course


Your freshman year is a great time to start researching which colleges you’d like to attend. For now, your focus should be on figuring out what your ideal college looks like.

Start reading about different colleges and visit their websites. You’ll quickly notice that no two colleges are the same. Take notes about the differences between colleges and what you like and don’t like about each of them. Doing this initial research can help you feel confident when you make your decision later on in high school because you’ll know you’ve been doing your homework ahead of time.


Your freshman year of high school is a good time to start reaching out and building relationships with guidance counselors, professional college counselors, and college representatives. By investing in these crucial relationships early, you’ll feel more comfortable in your junior and senior years when you need to ask for their guidance.

For the same reason, visiting college fairs or college campuses during your freshman year can help you feel more at ease when it comes to applying for and attending college. The time you spend developing relationships with counselors, advisers, and the colleges themselves is a worthwhile investment in making your life easier in your last two years of high school.

What NOT To Do During Your Freshman Year

Before you start psyching yourself out with a giant checklist, here’s a brief overview of things you shouldn’t be worried about during your freshman year.

(Video) How to Explain Poor Freshman-Year Grades

  • Taking the ACT or SAT before your junior or senior year won’t give you an accurate idea of your potential. You simply haven’t learned all the material on the test yet!
  • It’s unwise to start writing college applications this early. You may change your mind about where you want to attend by the time you’re ready, and many colleges don’t even accept applications until your senior year.
  • Don’t worry about hunting down financial aid or scholarships quite yet. Focus on your extracurriculars and personal skills to help you secure grants and scholarships later on.

It may be tempting to dive headfirst into applying for college and get it out of the way early, but a better investment of your time is to focus on developing the skills you’ll need to succeed. Learning how to network, write a compelling essay, and dedicate yourself to the extracurricular activities that interest you is the best way to prepare as a freshman for your future college applications.

Take a few hours over school breaks or long weekends to enter a personal essay contest or poke around college websites. Take a class that will prepare you for advanced classes in the spring. There’s no rush to get ready for college right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t actively prepare yourself for college applications in your freshman year.

Start Preparing For College Applications Early

The more time you spend becoming comfortable with the idea of applying for college and practicing the skills that will help you get admitted, the more likely it is that you will succeed. Instead of waiting until your senior year to start frantically searching for a list of the best colleges, why not start your own search now and tailor your high school plans to your dream schools?

By intentionally starting your preparations for college applications in your freshman year, you’re making a choice to be committed to your academic future. WeAdmit counselors share the same commitment to the students we work with; we want to help students get accepted to the right college for them. Our counselors can help you plan the rest of your high school years to help increase the chances of being admitted into your dream college.

Get The Ball Rolling Today, And Your Momentum Toward College Will Be Unstoppable By Senior Year!


What is the most important thing on a college application? ›

Courses and Grades

A student's grades in college-preparatory classes remain the most significant factor in college admission decisions.

What do colleges look for most in college application? ›

Good grades, a challenging high school curriculum, standardized test scores, extracurriculars, and a strong essay are a few key factors admissions officers assess. Each university may emphasize different elements of the application process.

How do you stand out in the college application process? ›

How to Stand Out in Your College Application: 15 Expert Tips
  1. Choose Your High School Classes Appropriately.
  2. Earn Good Grades. ...
  3. Use Your Personal Statement to Tell Your Story. ...
  4. Participate in Extracurricular Activities. ...
  5. Volunteer. ...
  6. Keep Accurate Records. ...
  7. Manage Your Social Media Presence. ...
  8. Learn as Much About Your School as You Can.
Apr 20, 2023

What is one thing you will do to prepare for your college applications? ›

What are the steps in the college application process?
  • Create a list of colleges you're interested in.
  • Research and visit schools to narrow down the list.
  • Fill out the FAFSA®, and consider finances and scholarship opportunities.
  • Get letters of recommendations, if required.
  • Take college admission tests.

Do colleges look at freshman year? ›

Colleges do indeed consider your freshman grades, although maybe not in the way you think. They see your freshman grades holistically, as part of your overall GPA.

What should I highlight in a college application? ›

Morgenstern advises her students to highlight “7Cs” in their essays and applications: collaboration, commitment, character, curiosity, cultural intelligence, challenge, and creativity. Colleges may look for a different set of character qualities or define these traits in different ways.

What impresses college admissions officers? ›

Basically, there are six main factors that college admissions officers consider: AP classes and challenging course loads, high school GPAs, SAT and ACT scores (unless they are test-optional), meaningful extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and your personal statement.

What grade does college look at most? ›

Most colleges will ask for the fourth year, but they typically use the grades from the first three years to determine admission. Arguably, the most critical year for grades is the 3rd year, or junior year, because these grades are the most recent and will give colleges the best picture of a student's abilities.

What are elite colleges looking for? ›

High School GPA and Class Rank

Colleges look not only at your overall GPA but also at how well you did in individual classes. If your school has a class rank, that shows how much competition you faced with grades and performance to reach a particular level.

How do I make my university application stand out in Canada? ›

Here are some tips on spending your time wisely—and justifying it afterwards.
  1. Follow your interests. You're more likely to stick with extracurricular activities if you're interested in them, rather than viewing them as a chore. ...
  2. Stretch your limits. ...
  3. Get a job. ...
  4. Be a leader. ...
  5. Focus on the journey.
Nov 15, 2022

What makes me stand out from other college applicants? ›

Stand-out applications showcase achievement, merit, and previous academic success. Taking honors classes or AP courses can give you a significant advantage. Most colleges generally prefer applicants with a B in an honors program over those with an A in standard courses because it shows initiative.

What do universities look for other than grades? ›

Besides grades, colleges look at SAT® and/or ACT® scores, leadership experience, course load difficulty, letters of recommendation, application essays, and more. So, it's important for students to realize that good grades require time and dedication, but so do many other important factors.

Is it common to fail freshman year of college? ›

You may be surprised to learn that many students fail academically in their first year of college. One-third of freshmen students don't make it to their sophomore year. That's a huge number, and it worries everyone concerned with higher education.

What year of high school do colleges look at the most? ›

Your first year and sophomore year affect your cumulative GPA, which is important to most colleges. However, a solid academic record in your junior year is likely to carry more importance with an admissions committee.

What are good grades for freshman year? ›

Freshmen who earn a B average or better have an 80 percent chance of finishing high school with at least a 3.0 GPA. Freshmen with less than a C average are more likely to drop out than graduate. Course grades also are the best predictors of test score gains and college graduation.

What do colleges look at in essays? ›

Colleges look for three things in your admission essay: a unique perspective, strong writing, and an authentic voice. People in admissions often say that a great essay is one where it feels like the student is right there in the room, talking authentically to the admissions committee!

Which of the following topics should be avoided when writing an application essay? ›

College Admissions Essay Topics to Avoid
  • Summary of your academic and personal achievements. ...
  • A sports-related obstacle or success. ...
  • An immigration story. ...
  • Tragedies you've experienced. ...
  • Overcoming a challenging course. ...
  • Someone you look up to. ...
  • A volunteer experience. ...
  • Moving to a new home.
Mar 26, 2021

What not to ask admissions officers? ›

But all the same, it's not a good idea to ask about the school's party culture or anything related to drugs and alcohol. Questions that make you seem uninterested. Don't ask admissions officers questions that compare them to other schools.

What is the first thing college admission officers look at? ›

Admissions officers look at “hard factors” (GPA, grades, and test scores) and “soft factors” (essays, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and demonstrated interest) to gain a full picture of applicants.

What things impress colleges? ›

What Are the Best Extracurriculars for College?
  • Leadership Work and Positions. Colleges seek out applicants with leadership experience. ...
  • Part-Time Jobs. ...
  • Sports and Athletic Participation. ...
  • Academic Clubs and Teams. ...
  • Artistic and Creative Pursuits. ...
  • Volunteering and Community Service. ...
  • Internships.

What are the 5 most important things to consider when choosing a college? ›

Before making your choice, consider these factors: cost, location, size, your interests, campus life, graduation rates, and the potential return on your investment. Once you make your decision, be sure to commit to the college by the deadline.

Do colleges look at 11th grade the most? ›

Most college admissions committees consider your 11th-grade transcript to be the most important. Because students typically apply during senior year, it's the last full year of records colleges will see, although many colleges also ask for a transcript of your first-semester senior year courses.

Do colleges like to see improvement? ›

Trends are important — grade trends, that is. Colleges notice if and how your grades improved (or didn't) over time. If your grades were lower at the beginning of high school and then improved, the upward trend may count in your favor.

What type of person do colleges look for? ›

Colleges are looking for leaders who are compassionate and caring about others. They want innovators who are passionate about their pursuits and willing to take risks. So, what do admissions officers look for? They want students who have clear goals and can demonstrate that they can achieve them.

What do Canadian colleges look for? ›

Canadian Universities emphasize GPA more than many countries because they don't even consider any common exams like GRE. There are very few universities that recommend GRE but no university requires it as such. So, if you want to get into some of the top universities your GPA must be competitive.

Do colleges compare applicants from the same school? ›

Admissions officers sort applicants by region first, and then often subdivide within regions by other factors, which can include race, gender, intended major, or smaller geographic areas. Thus you are compared to other applicants from your high school, but not directly.

What is the hardest university program to get into in Canada? ›

The hardest undergraduate programs to get into in Canada include the Bachelor of Commerce at University of British Columbia, Mechanical Engineering at McGill University, Smith Bachelor of Commerce at Queen's University, Engineering Sciences at the University of Toronto and the McMaster University Bachelor of Health ...

How to increase your chances of being accepted into university? ›

  1. Earn Good Grades in Challenging Courses. ...
  2. Get a High SAT/ACT Score. ...
  3. Write a Compelling Personal Statement. ...
  4. Demonstrate Interest. ...
  5. Secure Strong Letters of Recommendation. ...
  6. Apply to a Diverse Selection of Colleges. ...
  7. Opt for an Early Admission Plan. ...
  8. Manage Your Online Reputation.

How do you get noticed by universities? ›

We'll start with the least labor-intensive and progress from there.
  1. Complete an online information request form. ...
  2. Connect on Social Media. ...
  3. Email your admissions counselor. ...
  4. Attend admissions events in your area. ...
  5. Visit campus. ...
  6. Spend time on your “Why this College?” essay. ...
  7. Apply early.
Jun 27, 2022

Why should I be chosen over other applicants? ›

Show that you have skills and experience to do the job and deliver great results. You never know what other candidates offer to the company. But you know you: emphasize your key skills, strengths, talents, work experience, and professional achievements that are fundamental to getting great things done on this position.

Why would I choose you over other applicants? ›

Your skills and qualifications. If you can prove that you've got all the skills that the company is looking for in a candidate, you'll have effectively answered the question. Your passion and motivation. You can highlight how good of a company fit you'd be and how much you love working in your field or industry.

What sports look good on a college application? ›

Athletic Participation

Playing team sports, such as football or basketball, also lets colleges know that you've been able to function as part of a team. Athletic participation generally takes up quite a bit of time and requires significant effort to develop skills.

Do colleges look at your social media? ›

Yes, colleges can look at the public version of your social media accounts, but they don't have some sort of secret, government-like power to access your private information. It's much more likely that your social media behavior would only be brought to their attention if it causes a stir.

Which two questions are colleges trying to answer by looking at your transcript? ›

Which two questions are colleges trying to answer by looking at your transcript? Did you take challenging courses? Were you involved in clubs and/or sports?

What grades do Canadian universities look at? ›

Many universities will calculate your admission average based on your cumulative Grade 12 U/M results. Usually, this will include the top six 4 U/M courses or similar. When your Grade 12 U/M grades are incomplete or unavailable, universities can consider your Grade 11 U/M grades for early entry offers.

What grades do colleges look at the most? ›

Your first year and sophomore year affect your cumulative GPA, which is important to most colleges. However, a solid academic record in your junior year is likely to carry more importance with an admissions committee.

Is GPA the most important factor? ›

That said, GPA is arguably the single most important factor in your college application process, so knowing where yours stands is imperative to figuring out your chances at different schools. Even if you have fantastic standardized test scores, a lower GPA can sink your application.

What three things need to be included on a college application? ›

You will be asked to list basic information about yourself, your school, and your family, as well as your GPA, standardized test scores, extracurriculars, and any awards you earned in high school. Some schools may ask you to submit a high school resume.

What do colleges look for in application essays? ›

Colleges look for three things in your admission essay: a unique perspective, strong writing, and an authentic voice. People in admissions often say that a great essay is one where it feels like the student is right there in the room, talking authentically to the admissions committee!

How do I make my college essay stand out at least 6 tips? ›

Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay
  1. Write about something that's important to you. ...
  2. Don't just recount—reflect! ...
  3. Being funny is tough. ...
  4. Start early and write several drafts. ...
  5. No repeats. ...
  6. Answer the question being asked. ...
  7. Have at least one other person edit your essay. ...
  8. Test Your College Knowledge.

Do colleges accept D grades? ›

A grade of D (including plus/minus) in a transferable course will count toward the number of transferable units you have completed. However, you must earn a grade of C or better when completing the seven-course pattern. And, in most cases, grades of D do not satisfy major or general education requirements.

Do colleges check where parents went to college? ›

If you indicate that your parents or siblings attended college, you'll be asked to identify the schools. This is the information that colleges will use to identify your legacy status.

Do freshman grades matter in college? ›

GPA: Are my freshman year grades important? One's freshman year grades are important, but not in the way that one might expect. Colleges are generally more forgiving of low grades received in one's freshman year. So, although colleges look at freshman year grades, it is from a more “holistic” viewpoint.

What GPA is required for Harvard? ›

Last year, the reported average GPA of an admitted high school student at Harvard was a 4.04 out of 4.0, what we call a “weighted” GPA. However, unweighted GPAs are not very useful, because high schools weight GPAs differently. In truth, you need close to a 4.0 unweighted GPA to get into Harvard.

What majors have the lowest GPA? ›

Average College GPA by Major

When broken down by major, students in general studies and other had the highest GPAs. Students in the sciences, education, social sciences, and humanities had the lowest GPAs with 2.7.

What not to write in a college application? ›

Many essays included things that you should not do in your college admissions essay including:
  • Never rehash your academic and extracurricular accomplishments.
  • Never write about a "topic"
  • Never start with a preamble.
  • Never end with a “happily ever after” conclusion.
  • Never pontificate.
  • Never retreat into your thoughts.

What awards look good on college applications? ›

Examples of academic awards include, but are not limited to:
  • AP Scholar.
  • Any “honor society” such as, International Thespian Society, National Honor Society, etc.
  • Honor Roll.
  • National Language Exam Recognition.
  • National Merit Award.
  • President's Award.
  • School subject-based award.

When should I start preparing for college applications? ›

Measuring up in the admissions game calls for early preparation and plenty of research. Though there is often prep work, students generally begin filling out college applications the summer between their junior and senior years of high school, experts say.


1. Is A 2.9 GPA Really That Bad? College Admissions and Financial Aid as well as for College Students
(Ed Zamora College Prep Channel)
2. Activities That DO Impress Colleges!!! OWN the College Admissions Process
3. ACTIVITIES Colleges DON'T Care About - I Learned This The Hard Way...
4. How to Prepare for College | How to College | Crash Course
5. Freshman Leadership is Important for Enhancing College Applications!
(My College Admission Counselors)
6. How to Choose a School | How to College | Crash Course


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