Take college-prep courses — Take challenging courses in high school (e.g., honors, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), HS/college dual enrollment), focusing on the core academics: English, math, science, history, and world languages. Look at courses that go beyond the minimum graduation requirements. This will make you a more impressive applicant and can even earn you college credit while in high school.
Focus on your grades — Your high school transcript is one of the most important parts of your college application, and good grades will help greatly in the application process.
Explore and then commit to extracurricular and leadership activities — Freshman year is a great time to try several different extracurricular activities to see which ones are most interesting to you. Once you decide what you like, dedicate more time to fewer activities to become more than a bystander.
Find summer volunteer opportunities/jobs/internships — Summer is a great time to earn extra money for college while exploring different career fields.
Meet and get to know your guidance counselor — Getting to know your guidance counselor early in your high school career makes it easier to talk about your plans for high school, college, and career.
Think about how you will pay for college — Start discussing ASAP, both in terms of why you want to go to college and how you’re going to pay for it. That way, you and your family will be comfortable with the topic when it’s crunch time in 11th and 12th grade.
Start saving for college — Even if you can only put aside a few dollars each month, every little bit helps, and creating a college savings account makes you vested in the process!
Review and apply for available scholarships (those available before you are a senior in high school) — Though most scholarships are available only for seniors applying to college, there are some scholarships available regardless of where you are in your high school career.