From Quora: My Answer to "How should I start preparing for college? (I’m about to enter my last year of middle school soon.)"
I made a video about what you should do in middle school to ensure you’re on the right track to get into the best college for you: Click here!
In any event, you should take time to read many books, magazines, newspapers (or their online equivalents). It’s a good idea to start with “the classics”- the books most people have had to read for high school and college for a LONG time. You can find a list of the classics on the Cliff’s Notes website CliffsNotes Study Guides | Book Summaries, Test Preparation & Homework Help | Written by Teachers. If they bothered to make a summary book for any particular book, it’s a “classic” for our purposes. Read them with a dictionary or Google (phone or PC) to look up words you don’t know. It’s good to know the actual dictionary definitions of words instead of just always guessing them from their context. It also pays to study word roots, suffixes, and prefixes, so you can figure out words you don’t know on the SAT or ACT.
Start doing extracurricular activities such as volunteer work (it shows you are community-minded), paid work (it shows you care about meeting goals, taking care of yourself, and possibly helping support your family, etc.), and things such as school sports, the school paper, yearbook, theater, etc. 8th grade, the last year of middle school, is a great time to try things like theater, a sport you haven’t played before, a new musical instrument, etc., so you have time to learn them well before college if you like them, and you haven’t wasted really crucial high school time on them if you find you don’t like them. Colleges will take your activities much more seriously if you’ve done them all through high school, and didn’t just start them right before applying to college.
Start practicing SAT and ACT math problems, not just to practice for those tests, but to stay sharp for your high school math and science courses. You’ll want the skills you need for those tests when you take harder math (algebra, trigonometry, statistics) in high school so you don’t have to learn them in college.
Make sure you talk with your teachers, counselors, supervisors, coaches, etc. about your goals, and ask for advice. Really listen to what these people tell you, even if you don’t like what they say. These people have more experience than you do, so they’re probably right, but don’t be afraid to ask other adults if you don’t like what you’ve been told. The more you share with (and listen to) adults, the better your relationship with them will be, the more likely you will be to receive “the benefit of the doubt” if you’re in a sketchy situation at school, and the better recommendations you will get when it’s time to apply to college. Teachers, coaches, counselors, and supervisors are human beings - they’re going to work harder for students they see as “friends” than just run-of-the-mill, average students/athletes/volunteers/workers. Hope this helps!
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.