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College is a major milestone in your life and will decide how the rest of your life plays out

SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - Tate EricsonIf you're a senior, I wouldn't recommend reading this column because it will likely make you more stressed than you already are. However, if you are a freshman, sophomore, junior, or parent, this information is crucial.

College is a major milestone in your life and will decide how the rest of your life plays out. The people you meet and the experiences you have are crucial for the professional, working world. This is why you must take preparation seriously and start preparing as early as you can.

College planning starts junior year, right? Wrong. Freshman and sophomore years are just as important to your GPA as junior year, so try your hardest and get the absolute best grades you can. This will help you look like the strong student you are to those oh-so-selective colleges. But if your freshman year was not so great, it is definitely not the end of the world since colleges like to see improvement in grades. Just make sure you improve considerably throughout the rest of your high school career.

Also, be sure to participate in extracurricular activities every year to show dedication. Extracurricular activities can be just as important as grades and test scores in the eyes of many colleges because it shows your passions. The activities you participate in can also reveal how you would fit into a certain college community.

Junior year is easily the most crucial year of high school. Your classes are the hardest, and many students start taking standardized tests. This is the year you should take as many AP classes as you can because colleges like to see that you can handle college-level courses. AP classes can also add an extra point to your GPA. If you get an A in the class, you get five points, rather than four. During junior year, you should also visit colleges during school breaks and attend meetings with any college representatives who visit your high school. At least at Wilsonville High School, they offer talks with representatives from a variety of colleges — near and far. Colleges like to see you've shown previous interest, so make sure you write down your information on any cards they give you. All these things can help your application shine.

So, here you are. You've slaved away for three years to achieve a solid GPA and braved the SAT or ACT. Now it's time for applications. Although many students start their applications in the fall of senior year to beat that January deadline, I would recommend you finish them during the summer before senior year. This means you can apply for early admission, which is great because colleges are often more lenient during this early period, and it also shows you are driven.

Another reason why early admission is the way to go is because it gives you more time after acceptances roll in. In turn, this gives you a better opportunity to consider your options and even visit to see if you like the campus. And, having your applications out of the way, will make your senior year much more enjoyable and stress-free. Many seniors spend much of their winter break working on applications, and early admission will free you of this burden.

Overall, college prep isn't just one or two years of high school, it's all four. During high school, your GPA, extracurricular activities, and test scores accumulate to show who you are as a student and person. It's best to start thinking about these things as early as you can to get ahead of the game.

Tate Ericson is a junior at Wilsonville High School.

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