3. Keep the grades up.  Make a commitment to work hard for the good grades. Students who find themselves falling behind should get help — before they fall too far behind. Grades count and schools look for students who have challenged themselves and expressed a passion for learning. There is a classic question, is it better to get an A in a regular class or a B in an AP class?

The real answer is it is best to get an A in an AP class. For the majority of students, good grades are entirely necessary to get into a good school. Schools are looking for a positive pattern. In the best-case scenario, a student maintains good grades throughout his or her high school career. Though, if the grades started off badly and then improved, colleges give points for this.

If grades are too low or show a steady decline, then a student is in real trouble. Spending a night studying while friends go out may not be exciting, but the path to college needs to be looked at with a long-term perspective.

4. Take standardized tests early. At most highly selective colleges, SAT or ACT tests are very important. The schools are looking to see if test score are consistent with – or exceed – a student’s high school performance. No student knows how high his or her score can go until the test results come in. But, if a student waits too long and does not get a desired score, there won’t be enough time to retake it.

Many unexpected circumstances can affect test scores on any given day, including the state of a student’s health.  (It’s impossible to plan not to get food poisoning.) Taking the test early will also allow time to take a test prep course if necessary. Most students take the SAT and-or ACT at least twice and improve their score the second time they take it. Students must also make sure to schedule test days for the SAT Subject Tests.

Most students take Subject Tests toward the end of junior year or at the beginning of senior year. The best time to take the tests is as soon as possible after completing the course in the subject.

5. Do your homework and try hard. No matter what the class, even one with a loathsome teacher and boring subject matter, students need to do their homework, try hard, and behave. Keep the eyes on the prize: college. Plus, teachers are where college recommendation letters come from so you want to impress them.

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