High School Sophomore College Planning Checklist

It's year two, and your student is getting in a good grove.

The sophomore year of high school is an exciting one. Your child is getting the hang of this whole high school thing. Classes are getting a little tougher, but more opportunities are opening up. And the spotlight on college is also shining a bit brighter.

With the foundation they set in freshman year, this second year is a prime time to dig in and take those challenging courses, dip a toe into standardized tests and explore new horizons. There’s a lot going on, but as students are finding their stride, they’ll grow more invested in plotting the path to their future.

Hone in their focus (and yours!) with our High School Sophomore College Planning Checklist. Get your bearings on the best ways to keep on track as they really start to spread their wings.

Update the academic plan

One year down, three to go! Revisit the academic plan your student created last year. What’s still a go? What’s changed? Make sure they stay in good contact (or reconnect) with their counselor throughout this process.

Plot out those classes

In 10th grade, encourage students to pick classes that pair rigor with reality. In other words, they should be challenged but ideally able to perform well, too. It’s also time to take a harder look at upperclassmen courses. Consider Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which start opening up for 10th graders, and can possibly earn them college credit down the road (if certain requirements are met).

Take time for (practice) testing

Whether or not they tried out standardized testing last year, this year, it’s a must. Your student should take the PSAT-10 in the fall, and, come spring, take SAT Subject Tests based on their AP classes. It’s also wise to get acquainted with the SAT and ACT. Practice tests and apps are helpful, notes CollegeVine — but, it adds, take it slow. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. The idea is to get their feet wet.

Hone in on extracurriculars

What does your child feel most passionate about? Whether it’s golf, Spanish club, student council or theater, have them narrow down the activities they’ve dabbled in to just the ones they’re really drawn too. Colleges do want students to be “well-rounded,” but they also look at teens who really get involved and contribute.

Dive deeper into choices

Open up a discussion about what your child wants in a college. Are they eyeing a big university or small liberal arts school? What career fields are they considering? How will finances play in? Getting the facts on the types of schools that draw them can open the door to more research. Make sure they’re discussing these options with both you and with their counselor, too.

Stay strong on coursework

As the momentum of high school work picks up, now’s the time to keep hitting the books and stay focused. If they’re struggling, encourage them to seek the help of a tutor or mentor, and possibly reevaluate classes if needed. Now’s a crucial time to build up good study habits, which they’ll need for the next two years and beyond.

Update the ‘me’ file or app

Things pick up steam during sophomore year, so it’s key to keep tabs on students’ activities, awards and accolades. Continue to set aside report cards, lists of honors received, projects that stand out and other highlights your child is most proud of.

Expand horizons in summer

Over the vacation months (or even during the school year if you can), make it a point to visit two college campuses. Encourage your student to look into joining summer groups and activities to sharpen skills — including “softer” ones like collaborating with others — and/or pick up summer work or volunteer.

Note: Be sure to also explore our checklists for high school freshmen, juniors and seniors.

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