Top 5 College Prep Activities

The best high school activities for college success!

Think a good ACT or SAT score plus a killer college essay equals instant admission into your dream school? Not quite. The work to get into the best universities starts way before your senior year of high school. Here are five activities for high schoolers that will make a difference when it's time to apply to college.

5. Student Government

If that isn't your thing, try sports. Or any other activity where you can take a student leadership role. You don't always have to be in charge, but experience taking initiative, and seeing projects through from beginning to end, will serve you well in college. College admission counselors like it, too. "It's better to see one or two activities that have shown a progression of responsibility, instead of many year-long stints," says Saint Louis University admission counselor Lindsey Wagner.

4. Volunteer Work

Getting involved in volunteer work that's related your future college major is an admission two-fer: You'll get a head start on your resume and build connections working with people you like (and sometimes people you don't) for a common goal. That kind of experience will serve you well in college in everything from study groups to collaborative projects. 

3. The Literary Magazine  

Or any activity that hones your communication skills. How well you present your ideas makes a big difference in college, where multiple-choice tests take a back seat to research and papers. A dash of personality on your college application or essay question doesn't hurt either. "Every student is different, and we look to their co-curricular activities to show us who they are outside the classroom," says SLU admission counselor Stephanie Szcezpanski.

2. Career-Related Activities

Even if - or maybe especially if - you're considering a few different careers, get out there and give one a try. Shadow a professional or try to get an internship or a summer job doing related to what your college major might be. "The more a student knows about what they truly are and are not passionate about before going to college, the easier it will be to focus in on those areas from the get-go," says SLU admission counselor Stephen Barnes

1. Your Homework

Yep, we're ending with the gimmee. High school is the foundation your college education will be built on. Your teachers and parents play a role, but it's your job to make sure you get the most out of it. Develop good study habits. Identify your academic weaknesses now, and face them head on. That way you won't just get into your dream college, you'll thrive there. Plus, if your school offers college credit for advanced classes (like SLU's 1818 program in the greater St. Louis metro area), you'll get a head start on some of your core classes.

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