While there is nothing that can guarantee your admission to the top colleges of your choice, there are certainly things you can do to improve your chances. The closer to the rarefied air of the Ivy League you get, the more you're going to have to do to stand out. Once you get past the state schools, you'll need more than just a sparkling grade point average and a knockout SAT score to get in the door. Even extracurricular activities, volunteering and a wonderful essay may not be enough. Getting into a great university is like getting that dream job, and there is a lot of competition to overcome. Here are some ways you can set yourself apart.
Work With Your High School
If you've been taking steps to set yourself apart academically, your high school should have both the tools and willingness to help you succeed in higher education. Make an appointment with the guidance counselor and explain to them what you are aiming to do. If they care about helping kids, they should be thrilled with a student who wants to set up a good academic plan. They can help you make sure you get in the right classes and take the appropriate steps that top colleges will look upon favorably. This is also an inroad to a good recommendation, which admissions offices need to see, especially in borderline cases.
Don't count on your high school to provide everything you need during the normal school year. You may need to sign up for some extra classes in the summer if you've fallen behind on your schedule. While most people think of summer school as a place for remedial students, they can also provide a good way for the academically gifted to get ahead. Not all schools design it that way, of course, so your chances may differ where you live.
Many community colleges and high schools offer what are known as AP classes. These are essentially university-level classes provided to advanced high school students. You can begin getting college credits, putting you just a bit further ahead of the competition. In fact, when it comes to the very top schools, they will expect to see some of these classes in your curriculum. Taking these courses are also likely to prepare you more fully for the SAT, which often covers material than many high school students haven't yet been exposed to.
Start Your Career
Plan on majoring in journalism at the university level? If you want to get into the best colleges, you'll need to demonstrate that you've already involved yourself in the field. It's not uncommon for schools to ask for a portfolio when assessing candidates. If you don't have one, they may realistically ask why this is the case.