College Readiness: The Importance of Preparing For College While in High School

Reality Changers has a history of helping underserved San Diego-area youth realize their college dreams. Our targeted academic and personal growth model helps students with their college preparation. Students must make sure that they are making the right decisions regarding their futures: financially and career-wise.

In order to optimize your college readiness, it helps to know what skills are necessary for thorough college preparation. We’ll explain which activities, experiences, and skills can make your college experience all it was meant to be – and more! So what is college readiness, anyway? We’re glad you asked!

What is College Readiness?

If you’re preparing for college in high school, odds are good that you’ve heard the term “college readiness” a time or two. It’s thrown around a lot during the college search and application process. At first, it might seem like it refers to a general “are you ready for college” kind of question, but the phrase is actually much more specific. College readiness actually refers to the skills, knowledge, and behaviors you should have before entering your freshman year of college. With the right kind of preparation, anyone can find success in the collegiate setting.

Let’s break college readiness down even further. Learning what to do in high school to prepare for college can really make all the difference. But what skills should you have before entering college? What should you know, and what behaviors should you prioritize?

  • Academic Knowledge: The specifics of college-ready knowledge varies slightly from one school to the next. Generally speaking, though, you’ll want a strong foundation in Common Core subjects like math, science, and the humanities. A well-rounded education is necessary, even if you see yourself going into a specialized major or concentration.
  • Skills: Before heading to college, you’ll want experience writing well-structured essays, following mathematical formulas, and useing the scientific method. “Soft” skills like time management, communication, decision making, critical thinking, and networking all come in handy, too.
  • Behavior: College is a chance to mature and grow. Still, you there should have be a baseline of maturity, reliability, and self-motivation before you ever step foot on campus. Without these behaviors, finding success in college may feel like an uphill battle.

How to Get Ready for College

With the question “what is college readiness” answered, you’re likely curious about how to best prepare for the next leg of your academic journey. A little pre-university preparation can go a long way to get you ready for your freshman year. If you’re eager to succeed in college, a preparatory program is a great way to foster the skills mentioned above. Many high schools, community colleges, and non-profit organizations (like Reality Changers) offer college readiness programs. The curriculum is designed to grow the skills and habits required for success in the collegiate setting.

Building connections with mentors can also help boost your confidence ahead of college. When you’re feeling unsure about how to get ready for college, an older, wiser, and more experienced mentor can reassure you and answer questions you might have about the process. Whether they’re a parent, teacher, coach, employer, or religious leader, mentors help us identify our strengths and work on our weaknesses.

Getting organized can also help develop your college readiness skills. No matter where you are in the search and application process, odds are good that you could benefit from streamlining your methods. Spreadsheets are an excellent way to track deadlines, passwords, and your progress on financial aid application websites. This strategy can really pay off in big ways – after all, organization is a crucial skill you’ll use all the time in college.

Preparing for College in High School: A Checklist

While the aforementioned college readiness tips are a good start, you might be looking for other ways to plan ahead. A preparing for college in high school checklist can help guide you through the steps. Each person’s individual checklist will look slightly different from the next, but you can use these recommendations to get started:

  • Research schools: Explore a wide range of colleges and universities to find the ones that best align with your interests, and career goals, and budget.
  • Meet with your school counselor or achievement coach: Discuss your college plans with your counselor for guidance on academics and the application process.
  • Maintain a strong GPA: Focus on your studies and aim for a high grade point average to enhance your college prospects.
  • Prepare for standardized tests: Study for and take standardized tests like SAT or ACT to meet college admission requirements. Fewer and fewer schools require these tests nowadays. Check the admissions requirements for the schools you are most interested in.
  • Explore financial aid options: Investigate scholarships, grants, and loans to determine how you’ll fund your college education.
  • Participate in extracurricular activities: Engage in clubs and activities to showcase your interests and leadership abilities.
  • Volunteer and get involved: Contribute to your community through volunteer work to demonstrate your commitment to service.
  • Attend college fairs and info sessions: Visit college fairs and information sessions to learn about different institutions and programs.
  • Request recommendation letters: Ask your favorite teachers and mentors for recommendation letters to support your college and scholarship applications.
  • Draft college essays: Begin writing personal statements that reflect your personality and aspirations.
  • Submit college applications: Be sure to complete and submit applications to your chosen colleges within their specified deadlines.
  • Complete the FAFSA: Fill out the FAFSA form to determine your eligibility for federal student aid.
  • Compare financial aid packages: Review and compare financial aid offers from colleges to make an informed decision.
  • Visit college campuses: Schedule visits to colleges to experience campus life and facilities firsthand.
  • Make a decision: Decide on the college that best aligns with your academic and personal preferences.
  • Prepare for transition: Get ready for college life by learning about campus resources and academic expectations.
  • Complete pre-college tasks: Take care of administrative requirements, like submitting transcripts and registering for classes.
  • Attend orientation: Participate in college orientation programs to get acclimated to campus and meet fellow students.

Remember to customize this checklist based on your personal circumstances and preferences. Good luck with your college preparations!

College Readiness Skills

Understanding the answer to the question “what is college readiness” is just the beginning. College preparation for high school students should center primarily around executive function skills. The mental skills we use every day to manage our lives become more important in the college setting. Memory, self-control, and flexible thinking are all essential to collegiate success. While these skills develop at different rates in different people, you can work to set intentions and do regular reflections on how you’re progressing. Journaling can be helpful in tracking your college readiness efforts.

If you’re really looking to master how to prepare for college in high school, work on reading and interpreting a syllabus. This is often one of the first challenges college freshmen experience. From there, build on managing your time effectively, reading and following assignment instructions, and staying on task when working in groups. Don’t overthink the process – there’s no need to reinvent the college readiness wheel. Just being thoughtful about the challenges that lie ahead can be incredibly helpful.

With the right mindset and this “mini-roadmap” in place, college preparation can be productive, rewarding…and even fun!

Reality Changers prepares youth to become first-generation college graduates and agents of change in their communities. If you believe that everyone deserves an opportunity to attend college, you can make a donation today.


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