Tips for Sophomore Year of High School

When most kids think of college applications, they think about junior year as the pinnacle. But in our experience, sophomore year is the best year to start hitting the pavement. In this post, we discuss what you can do to stay on target and build a great foundation for your applications.

Get Going

Don’t think of starting your sophomore year as getting ahead. Consider that it’s really hitting the target at time in which some of your competition is beginning to fall behind. Take full advantage of this period in life where you’re engrossed in high school and you see the timeline of college applications ahead of you.

Knowing where to begin is half the battle. You’re going to want to start off by creating a checklist. Brainstorm all of the activities you imagined yourself doing your junior year, from visiting colleges, to tests, extra-curriculars, and anything else that comes to mind 

Get Out of Town

Everyone should begin the process by finding schools that are right for them. Sure, you want to build a portfolio of grades, scores, and leadership that would be impressive to any school. But not all schools have the same requirements. Every school is looking for a different kind of student and most students are looking for different things in their choice of school. You’re going to want to tailor your application to fit the needs of your priority school, so it’s best to identify what those needs are now and act accordingly for the next two plus years.  

You should start off by visiting college campuses. Most sophomores don’t know much about schools outside of what their parents tell them, what they’ve seen on TV, or what they assume based on a school’s name. The best way to really get to know a school is to visit. We recommend visiting a handful of schools in your geographic region. Your preferences will become more obvious to you as time goes on, your grades and scores will become a factor, on and your list will develop accordingly, so don’t start by spending a ton of money on visits this early when you don’t have an idea yet of what’s even realistic for you. Your goal in touring colleges is to begin identifying your likes and dislikes. Do you prefer the feel of a big school or a small school? Did you mind the commute from your hometown to the college? How do you find the weather? The other really important thing is to ask real questions to the right people. Remember, tours are promotional material put forth by the school. Go up to some real students (not student tour guides) on campus and ask them the questions you genuinely want to have answer to—what’s their social life like? How is the workload? What are they interested in academically? Getting a real sense for what you want in a campus is a great launching point.

Expanding Extra-Curriculars  

Parents tend to think that their kids should start going out for leadership roles once they’re upperclassmen. We disagree. Strongly.

Gone are the days when a 28 on the ACT, an A- average, and junior year as the president of the booster club got you into a great school. The goal is no longer just president of the student body. If you want to get into a great school, you’re going to need to be president of the student body who built a lasting and visible legacy. Your goal should be to build high-level systems through student organizations or activity that are truly impressive. If you’re going to reach that goal, then you should start by taking on leadership roles your sophomore year. Consider that the foundation upon you which you will want to build something greater.  

ACTs, SATs, Subject Tests, oh my!  

This is probably the part of college prep that freaks everyone out the most. But let’s get real. You’re going to have to do it at some point. So, you might as well just bite the bullet and get started now.

Get going on your test prep second semester of sophomore year. That way, you can take your ACT or SAT in September or December of your junior year and get ahead. Kids who don’t start until junior year take the test in March or May. Granted many kids decide to retake the test and also take SAT IIs, the timeline then pushes late bloomers into senior year.


Need help coming up with a college list that fits your needs? Reach out to use here. We love helping students find the right school for them.