Giving yourself the best chance at college can be both exciting and overwhelming. We get it. We created this roadmap to help you along the way. Best of luck as you build an amazing future.

Tips to Prepare for College

We are excited that you are already thinking about how to set yourself up for college.

  • Strive for Good Grades: Develop a strong foundation in your core subjects. A solid foundation now will make high school courses easier to manage.

  • Consider advanced courses: If your school offers higher level courses, consider taking one! This could include a foreign language, Algebra I or Geometry.

  • Meet with Your Counselor: Discuss high school and the courses available. Look into whether there are honors or advanced courses you can take.

  • Develop Good Study Habits: Experiment with different study techniques to figure out what works best for you, and make it a routine.

  • Read Regularly: Reading enhances vocabulary, comprehension, and writing skills, which will be crucial in high school and college.

  • Always Ask Questions: Whether it's about high school, college, or any topic of interest, always be inquisitive. This trait will serve you well throughout your academic journey.

  • Clubs & Activities: Start joining school clubs or outside organizations that align with your interests. Consider participating in sports or arts programs as well. This is a chance to discover passions and develop teamwork skills.

  • Volunteer: Start getting involved in community service. This not only benefits others but helps you build skills and might shape your interests.

  • Save and Plan: Start saving for college early and explore scholarship opportunities. Some scholarships are even available for middle school and early high school students.

  • Summer Activities: Look into summer camps or workshops that focus on areas of interest – whether it's science, art, writing, or something else.

Your 9th-grade year is huge. We are jazzed that you are being so mature about making important academic choices.

  • Begin high school strong: While colleges look at all four years, starting with a solid GPA makes the next years more manageable. JMU looks for A’s and B’s in core academic classes (English, math, science, social studies and foreign language).

  • Take an honors course: We recommend taking at least one honors course during freshman year, if you are able.

  • Course Planning: Meet with your guidance counselor to discuss your 4-year plan while in high school.

  • Explore Extracurriculars: Join clubs, sports, or other school activities. Find what interests you and where you might want to take on leadership roles later.

  • Develop Study Habits: High school can be a jump in difficulty. Determine which study habits work best for you.

  • Keep an Activity Resume: Start documenting your achievements, awards, community service, and extracurricular activities.

  • Begin Exploring Careers: Think about subjects or hobbies you like, and research potential careers related to them.

  • Summer Activities: Consider a summer activity related to your interests, whether it's a camp, class, job, or volunteer opportunity.

In your 10th-grade year, the journey toward college shifts from establishing a foundation to deepening involvement and broadening exploration. Let's go!

  • Challenge Yourself Academically: Consider enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP), IB or honors courses. We recommend taking at least two advanced courses during your sophomore year.

  • PreSAT and PreACTs: Take a preparation SAT or ACT test to get a feel for the SAT. This can also qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship Program. JMU does not require standardized test scores as part of the application process but other colleges and universities might.

  • Stay Involved: Continue with extracurriculars, looking for opportunities to take on more significant roles or responsibilities.

  • Visit Colleges: Start visiting colleges to get an idea of what you’re looking for. Many colleges offer virtual tours, if you’re unable to travel this early in the process.

  • Research Careers: Begin researching potential career paths and what majors might align with those interests. Consider talking with someone working in that field to better understand what it entails.

  • Prepare for Junior year: Meet with your guidance counselor to choose classes for 11th grade. Add another honors-level class and one or two AP, IB or DE classes.

  • Stay Updated: Regularly update your activity resume.

  • Summer Plans: Look for opportunities to take summer courses, participate in a camp, volunteer, work, or intern in areas related to your interests.

The 11th grade marks a pivotal moment in your academic journey, often considered the most critical year for college preparation. We are ready to help you find your way.

  • Academic Rigor: This is often considered the most critical year academically by colleges. Continue challenging yourself but be wary of overloading.

  • SAT/ACT: Begin taking the SAT or ACT. Consider preparatory courses or resources. Aim to finish testing by the end of junior year, but know you can take them in senior year if needed. JMU doesn’t require them when you apply, but other schools might.

  • College Research: Start researching colleges more intensively, considering factors like location, size, majors available, cost, etc.

  • Visit Campus: Schedule an in-person tour of campus. This will include an info session and guided tour. If all of your research has been done online, Junior year is a great time to experience campus and confirm the right fit.

  • Meet your Admissions Counselor: We are here to help you in so many ways, not just application information. If you have questions, just ask!

  • Letters of Recommendation: Start thinking about which teachers or mentors you'll ask. It's good to ask at the end of junior year or the beginning of senior year.

  • Engaged further in Activities: Look for leadership roles in your chosen clubs, organizations or activities. This experience will prepare you tremendously.

  • Summer Before Senior Year: Consider special programs, courses, or internships. Begin drafting your college essay for admission.

As you enter senior year, the college preparation process moves into a focused period of application and decision-making. We hope you put JMU high on your college list!

  • Finalize College List: You should have a list of schools that you are interested in attending. Make sure JMU is on it!

  • Do a little research: Learn more about the schools on your list. Check academic programs and other areas of interest. Get a feel for the student community, location, and support services.

  • Essays: Spend time refining your college essays. Consider having a teacher, counselor, or mentor review them.

  • Applications: Begin the application process for each college on your list. Keep track of deadlines, especially if you're considering early action. This process is easier than you think, so don’t stress about it.

  • Recommendation Letters: If you haven't already, ask for letters early in the school year. Provide your recommenders with your activity resume to make their job easier.

  • Financial Aid: Complete the FAFSA as soon after October 1 as possible. Look for scholarships and understand each college's financial aid policies.

  • Maintain Your Grades: Even after you're accepted, colleges want to see that you've maintained a solid academic performance.

  • Decisions: Once you receive your acceptance letters, weigh your options. Consider visiting campuses again.

  • Celebrate and Prepare: Once you've made your decision, celebrate! Then start preparing for college life.

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