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  • Writer's pictureHollis Bischoff

Start the school year with college readiness in mind

Republished with permission from the Los Altos Town Crier. Originally appeared in the August 3, 2016 edition


Fall offers a new beginning for every year of high school and a chance to boost your college readiness quotient. Following are the top three strategies by class.


  • This is your chance to start fresh, try on a new persona, experience new things, step outside your comfort zone and begin to form your adulthood.

  • Find time to expand beyond academics by joining a club or two. This is a good time to start discovering your interests and passions.

  • Develop good study habits. Schedule your work and work your schedule. This will be of great help as you juggle multiple teachers and classes all the way through senior year.


  • What new challenge can you take on? You’ve got the high school thing down now, so it’s time to dip your toes in leadership, join another club or take an honors or AP class.

  • Begin exploring careers and making connections between your classes and the real world (yes, they really do exist).

  • Think about areas where you can start to build your independence and take on college-ready responsibilities like managing a budget/allowance, doing your own laundry, fixing your own breakfast and lunch and learning to cook nutritious meals.


  • Now is the time to really get to know your teachers – after all, you will be asking one or two of them for college letters of recommendation in the spring. Approach them and talk with them, ask questions, engage them in dialogue. Most college students give this piece of advice when asked what they would have done differently in high school.

  • Start your standardized test study, and plan test dates. The first SAT/ACT should be taken in February 2017 or before, so there is time for retesting, if you want.

  • Start researching colleges, but don’t get too stressed out – you still have a year to build your college readiness.


  • Finalize your list of potential colleges by early September so that you’ll know your workload for completing applications without last-minute cramming.

  • Start senior year off right – grades and course load still count, but take a few minutes to appreciate your last year.

  • • Develop a plan with your family to survive the college application season. Plan time into your schedule to work on college applications on a weekly basis. But limit college talk to once or twice a week for a certain amount of time. College is a process, not a 24/7 on-call job.


  • Keep track of all you do and update your resume. Most students have an easy place to store their resumes on Naviance (for public school students) or somewhere else online. Update it at the beginning of each semester.

  • Eat and sleep well. Yes, you are in high school now, but nutrition and sleep are more important than ever to ensure that you are at the top of your game.

  • Remember, most importantly, that you are not a college application – you are preparing to be a citizen of the world. There are more than 3,400 four-year public and private universities, many of which would look forward to welcoming you for four years.

Hollis Bischoff is college admissions advisor for CollegeUnlocked. She earned a graduate certificate in college and career counseling from UCLA and is a Certified Educational Planner. She blogs about college admissions at and tweets at @collegeunlocked. For more information, email

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