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Before you graduate: Things to know

Melody Hansford

Unlock the secrets to college admission success through meticulous preparation. Starting early and breaking down tasks into manageable steps is crucial. Expert guidance, such as that provided by Sterling Academy's Academic Coach Laura Rivero, can help students navigate scholarships and academic goals effectively.

Preparation, though perhaps technical and even tedious, is completely necessary for college-bound students. Receiving a letter of admission from the school of your dreams comes only after the completion of a long multi-step process. 


For all students, the best course of action is to start early. Kat Cohen, the founder of IvyWise, explains, “By starting early and spreading out research, campus visits, standardized test preparation, and extracurriculars, students won’t feel as frenetic come senior year.” 


By breaking your college plan into smaller goals over time, you are planning for success. Speaking with a college counselor is a great start for drawing up your first collegiate blueprints. 


At Sterling Academy, Academic Coach, Laura Rivero, guides students in their financial and academic goals as they pursue their post-high school plans. 


Ms. Rivero explains, “My goal is to fill in the gap at Sterling, to help students with whatever they need.” She then suggests that students take a look at the College Board and NSHSS websites for available scholarship opportunities. 

“Many students are unaware of the scholarship opportunities that may be available to them.” Ms. Rivero explains that the most important action students can take is to try. 


A prominent scholarship that Ms. Rivero recommends is “Your First Scholarship” which is supported through NSHSS. If you have never received a scholarship before, you are more than eligible for this one. 


Ten five-hundred-dollar scholarships are given to a group of high school students each cycle. Each applicant is asked to write a five-hundred-word essay regarding their “biggest strength.” The deadline for this scholarship occurs on October 1st of 2021. 


FAFSA or federal loans are another option that most students utilize as they pay for their education. FAFSA looks at a student’s family’s ability to pay based on their taxable income. A student will receive a personalized aid package based on their family’s information. 


Standardized testing, such as the ACT and SAT, is also a crucial part of the college application. Colleges often have a score threshold that they generally adhere to. 


One prime way to maximize your scores on your standardized test is to decide which test better suits your strengths. The ACT, for example, is more heavily focused on science and mathematics. The SAT is more focused on reading and writing. 


Some colleges accept SAT scores from a mid-range of 1000 to 1200. Others generally only accept applications from students who score 1400 or higher. Likewise, certain colleges accept ACT scores ranging from 18 to 21. Selective universities may expect its applicants to score at least 30 on the exam. 


The earlier you realize which ‘tier’ of schools you wish to apply to, the better. An Ivy League-bound student will likely need to devote more of their time to academics and extracurriculars earlier than other high school students. 

Being aware of available study resources is equally as important. Khan Academy and College Board are both sites that can give you a personalized practice experience. Completing at least two practice tests will help you become more accustomed to the structure of the test. 


College Board and Study Point allow students to register for the SAT and ACT respectively. It is wise to have an idea of when and where you would like to take the test before you start studying. 


Taking the PSAT before the SAT may also prove to be a good preparatory option. Some scholarships and extracurricular programs require that you submit a PSAT score in advance. 


College Board recommends, “[Students should] take the [test] at least twice—in the spring of their junior year and the fall of their senior year.” 


Take into account when your desired college opens and closes applications. You can find your school’s application timeline on its website. 


Generally, most schools expect students to send their applications through the Common App. The Common App opens on August 1st and closes between November and February depending on the type of application and school. 

QuestBridge is another type of application that focuses on high-achieving students who come from unprivileged backgrounds. The application process is selective, but some students may be guaranteed admission to a top school if admitted into the program. 


As online students, our senior year may look a little different from those in traditional schooling. In online education, every student has the potential to graduate early. 


While a tough feat, depending on your goals, having an early graduation date may be incredibly beneficial. However, some steps need to be taken to complete this task. You first need to have a strong motivation and drive to complete your work at a speedy rate. 


Never lose sight of the goal. Always remember why you started this journey in the first place. It would be helpful to have a structured time frame of when you start and end school for the day. 


You should also track the number of assignments you complete every day. This knowledge will allow you to calculate how many days it will take you to complete a course. This alone can help motivate you to keep going. 

If you are completing several assignments per day, be sure to take breaks in between to avoid burnout. Take notes from your lessons and message your teachers if you need help. 


Choose carefully which courses you decide to work on first. You don’t want to be forced to complete two difficult courses at a speedy pace at the same time. 


Instead, start with one or two easier courses along with one hard course. When you start on your more difficult course, you still have the option to work on your easier course if you need a break. 

The most important thing here is movement. Make sure that you are always moving forward in at least one of your courses. 


At the end of the day, you are responsible for keeping yourself accountable. If you do want to graduate early, do realize that there will be times that you will have to do school when you don’t want to. 


Keep pushing yourself; finishing high school will not be at the forefront of your mind forever. Learn to trust theprocess. 

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