A 10th grader recently asked me about the importance of standardized tests vs. grades. The emphasis on testing varies among colleges, but generally grades matter most. Your grades in core academic subjects (English, math, social studies, science and foreign language) will have the most impact on whether you are a strong candidate for a particular college, along with the rigor of your curriculum. As you consider your choices for your junior year classes, aim for a courseload that is challenging but not overwhelming.
Beyond having a strong academic year, this is a time to explore your interests, your strengths and weaknesses, and the college landscape in general. It’s still early to focus on specific schools, but it’s not too early to learn more about what’s out there, and exploring now gives you the opportunity to reflect on what kind of college experience you want to have. That’s why I encourage younger students to do at least one campus visit by the end of 10th grade. This will give you a frame of reference for visits in your junior year, and can start to give you a sense of what kind of school will be the right fit for you: big or small, urban or small town, a liberal arts college or a research university.
As you start planning for the summer, think of it as another chance to explore academic subjects you enjoy as well as sports, hobbies or community service. The goal is not to rack up the most impressive list of activities, but rather to do things you like and are interested in and try new experiences.