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  • Writer's pictureDina

Top 10 Mistakes High School Students Make

  1. Believing Certain Years Don’t Count Students in California may have often heard of something called a UC GPA, which is calculated based on your grades from 10th-12th grade. However, this does not mean that 9th grade doesn’t matter. All schools will still consider your cumulative GPA, which actually includes the summer before 9th grade. Remember, the moment you graduate each year, you are officially in the next grade! That is, any courses that you took for a letter grade during the summer before 9th grade will also be counted in your cumulative GPA. Don’t forget, private schools and liberal arts colleges want to see your cumulative GPA. All years count!

  2. Taking Easy Classes or Classes Because of Friends When choosing courses, many students tell me that they choose classes based on what their friends are taking and which teachers are easy. This is an overall detriment to your profile because you may end up wasting time taking a class that doesn’t help that much for the major that you are applying for during college application season. Having a higher GPA but fewer classes that prepare you for your major won’t be as helpful.

  3. Sacrificing Grades for Sports, Clubs, or Social Life Students who join sports are called student-athletes. Remember, your job is a student first, which is why you must maintain a certain GPA to be part of sports teams. The most important thing that will help get your foot in the door when applying to college is your GPA. Make this your number one priority.

  4. Focusing ONLY on Academics and Volunteering However, don’t ONLY focus on academics. Also, many students tell me that they volunteer. This is great! However, your major should help determine what kind of volunteering, if at all. For example, a student interested in Computer Science should probably have more technical projects and experience instead of volunteer hours in order to be competitive at elite schools.

  5. Not Utilizing Summer Summer vacation is usually 2-3 months. You have 4 of these if you count the summer before 9th grade. That’s an extra YEAR! If you are not utilizing summer time, you are effectively 20% behind competitive applicants. Think about it.

  6. Not Developing Relationships with Faculty One of the great aspects of attending a summer program is interacting with faculty from colleges and universities. Ideally, if you hit it off really well with them, they may even be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you! But wait – don’t forget about teachers from your school that you see every day, especially teachers that you’ve had or predict that you will have for multiple years. For example, a teacher that you had in 9th grade and 11th grade would be able to speak to your maturity and growth throughout high school. That’s fantastic!

  7. Imbalance in Extracurriculars or Unrelated-to-Major Activities When I say imbalance, I mean too many or too few extracurriculars. Yes, you can have too many extracurriculars, especially activities that take lots of time away from your major. This is similar to point number four. How you spend your free time is very important; try to do things that are related to your major. Interested in Computer Science? Make software and programs! Interested in business? Start an online store! Be creative – you do NOT have to attend a single summer program if you are proactive and take initiative with your talents.

  8. Forcing Self into Wrong Major Similarly, if your talents and activities don’t align with the major you are gunning for, your application will naturally feel weaker. Think about this from the admissions office’s perspective – your profile shows that you volunteered a lot and took lots of biology courses, but then you apply for Computer Science. Major matters because schools have limited space in each major.

  9. Not Taking Enough Responsibility Colleges look for students who are ready for college, which means students who are mature, organized, respectful, social, and self-aware. Yes, you may feel pressure about which classes to take, but it is your responsibility to do well in the class. Yes, we all have had “teachers who don’t teach,” but students who are independent and motivated will still find ways to succeed.

  10. Not Asking for Help And that brings us to the last point. Students have lots of resources both on and off campus. Faculty members such as teachers and counselors are there to help. Parents and adults have experience to share. Asking for help can feel difficult, but it’s one of the greatest things you can learn to do!

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