My freshman is starting high school and I’m already freaking out about college

My freshman is starting high school and I’m already freaking out about college. It feels like we’re already behind and I want to do what’s best for my kid.

You’re not alone! Today we had our freshman orientation and provided our students with information on how to connect to the resources at our school. With that, comes conversations of mental health and wellness throughout the next four years as well as the inevitable college convo.

How do you prepare early and feel not only in control, but well fit as the college process gets inevitably closer? I’m going to give you practical tools and some sound, maybe unsolicited, but sound advice.

Sidebar – Seniors, I’ll be back with posts to help you through the application process, if you’re needing some content, check this post out and search previous admission content.


Grades matter! But so does the types of courses a student takes, and the progression over the next four years. What’s the best schedule? What’s the most rigorous?

Students have a clean transcript when they begin in the fall. There’s literally no official grades posted on a transcript yet, but there is a schedule.

The schedule is key to finding the right balance in setting up the next few years. What’s the right balance? Colleges will look at students within the context of what’s offered at their high school. They’ll take into consideration the curriculum offered at the school, if there are AP coursework, honors, IB, etc.

A student is never disadvantaged for not having access to something at their school. That’s important to remember. Especially if you find blogs about what schedule a student took to get into XYZ university.

Student’s want to take the right level of academic courses (meaning if there is an honors option it is recommended and the student feels they can be successful). Colleges will look at the trajectory of their transcript over time. So, for example, if a student took regular English in 9th grade and received A’s, and then took Honors English in Sophomore year, that’s a positive trend. Just because a more advanced course is available, doesn’t automatically mean that’s the golden ticket.

Freshman year is SUCH a great starting point for instilling healthy study habits, organization tools, and having students be confident in advocating for themselves if they get in a tough spot.

For the schedule, take into consideration what the student likes, what they’re strong in, what teacher recommendations were made from middle school, and aim for a balanced, yet rigorous schedule for the student’s level. That will look different for EVERY student!


Freshman year is a great time to explore creative ways to spend time outside the classroom in areas that are interesting. An activity can be any committed amount of time and responsibility in something. That could be a sport, a play, choir, learning a new skill or talent, joining a club, etc. Typically at the start of the school year there is a club fair or an introduction to what’s available at the school. Students can join clubs, start their own, and it’s OKAY if they end up not liking it and shifting. If they know what they don’t want it just leads them closer to what they do want.

Students don’t have to do EVERYTHING such as volunteering AND be an athlete AND taking the lead in the school play. Colleges genuinely want to see the interests and involvement of the student and how that might translate on their campus. A college application will ask for the activity, the role the student had in the activity, how many hours per week, and how many weeks per year on average.

Encourage them to keep track of the activities on a Google doc, a word doc, or literally a notes app on their phone. Over time, or at least at the end/start of each semester, it’s worth reflecting on what activities were meaningful and worth the time spent on them, what activities they’re okay to let go of, and how they can take on more leadership or in-depth roles within their respective activities.

Again, this will look different for EVERY child, so if they’re just not into the whole club thing, that’s okay! Maybe they want to learn a language or guitar on their own, or read over 50 books in a year, whatever it is, foster their genuine interests, because it’ll come across the most authentic when it comes time to apply to college.

College Exploration

Get to know colleges and understand their fit for your child. The special part about college is that each school has their own mission, their tailored curriculum, their own campus feel, amenities, support services, academic departments, and more. Students have an opportunity to attend colleges that will foster their growth, connect to their learning style, and challenge them to go outside of their comfort zone.

Get to know different colleges beyond what you may have already in mind. Help them understand that while one dream school may be incredibly amazing for their future, one school will not define their entire existence. Get to know a number of colleges! Here are a few ways:

  • Attend a college fair (local and national)
  • See if your school offers college admission representative visits (they typically happen throughout September – early November)
  • Tour a local college (choose one public and one private, or one large and one small to see some differences)
  • Whenever you’re traveling, see if there’s a school nearby and just walk on campus, pop in the dining hall, order some food, hangout and get a feel for the school
  • See if a local college is offering a public free event for the community and attend!
  • Have your child set up a meeting with their counselor and ask for some recommendations
  • Complete the Corsava card sort and get an idea of just what preferences are important in the college search
  • Encourage career exploration and major exploration workshops offered locally or at your school
  • Help them understand their own preferences and how that ties to their future goals
  • Tour colleges online (choose two different schools and sign up for a virtual admissions presentation and tour) compare!

Lastly, as the school year begins, allow for some transition time. College will happen! But if on a Monday, they’re freaking out over what to wear, or where to sit for lunch, let that be the conversation for Monday.

Search the College Admissions tab for more in-depth posts regarding the college admission and application process.

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