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Students should avoid common mistakes when preparing for college


January 2, 2008

Preparing for college takes hard work. High school students sometimes have difficult choices to make as they prepare themselves for the next level of education.

Following are five common mistakes to avoid.

• Taking the easy road—Students who take the easy road when choosing high school classes—opting for courses that require the least amount of work and brain power—are probably hurting their chances for success in college. College classes are very difficult and demanding. Students who don't take challenging courses in high school are likely to struggle even more with college coursework.

• Slacking off senior year—It's very tempting for students to slack off during their senior year of high school, taking easy courses that give them more time to have fun. Students who hope to succeed in college, however, should avoid this temptation. Those who “take their senior year off” may actually find themselves behind academically when they arrive at college. The best way for students to prepare for success is to do the opposite: keep taking challenging courses and academically push through senior year.

• Focusing too much on GPA—Grades are certainly important when it comes to getting into college. However, colleges tend to look not only at students' grades but also at the specific courses they took. Earning a “B” in an advanced course such as calculus or physics can mean more to college admissions officers than earning an “A” in an easier course such as business math or general science. Students who sacrifice advanced coursework for a high GPA may be doing more harm than good in the long run.

• Waiting until high school to start planning—Some students wait until their junior or senior year in high school before they start planning for college. By then, it may be too late to take the courses needed to qualify for college, yet alone succeed once they get there. The best time for students to start planning and setting goals for the future is in middle school, when there is plenty of time to set the right course for success. It's never too early to start thinking about your future.

• Not asking for help and advice—Counselors, teachers, administrators, and parents may seem out of touch about some of the things that are important to teenagers. When it comes to planning for college and the future, however, they tend to know what's important. Teens should ask these adults for help and advice when preparing for the college. Don't miss out on some of your most valuable resources.

 To learn more about college and career planning, visit ACT's student website: 


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