The 4 Year High School Plan

This is the school-friendly version of the plan; if you want to see a full, comprehensive guide, this article is part of a whole guide to getting into college. View it here!

Freshman year -


    • The colleges understand the GPA system is very easy to game, so you’ll need to focus on shelling yourself out as an applicant in other ways.
    • Getting valedictorian does not guarantee you into a good school, but getting started early does.
  • Get involved with all aspects of high school life (clubs, sports, etc.)

    • Document every activity you do.
    • Quality > quantity - try to make them impactful.
    • Have fun and create quality experiences (this will come useful later on writing college app essays).
  • Try to explore passions outside of school.
  • Get to know everyone (your counselor is a great start)

    • Being successful is more than just a numbers game. Having a good relationship with people can make for irreplaceable resources, indirectly influence your grade, and create additional opportunities.
    • Getting advice from your older peers all throughout high school is key.
  • Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, try and make a 4 year plan to clear graduation and A-G requirements.

    • I cannot stress how much planning ahead helps - you’ll just need to follow it for the rest of your 3 years and can get into classes if you’re on top of it.
    • Not all A-G classes have to be taken at the high school. For example, the first semester of language at DVC will cover two years.
    • However, these classes will only go toward elective credit. You’ll still need core requirements such as 4 years of English and 3 years of math.
  • Don’t waste your summers!

    • If there’s classes you want to get out of (ie: Precalculus), you can take them at an online high school or DVC in 6 weeks.
    • Doesn’t have to be super academic, even working on your hobbies is a good use of time.

Sophomore year -


    • Same as above, but just need to drill it in their heads.
  • Begin to make effective use of your time.

    • Find out what extracurricular activities really interest you and stick to those.
    • Balance your time spent of classes with extracurricular activities
  • Start to increase your course rigor. (eg: AP Modern World)

    • There will be classes you don’t want to take, but they’re necessary for success.
    • If you know what you’re interested in, take classes applicable to that field.
    • If you don’t have enough class space, consider self-studying an AP exam.
  • Prepare for SAT/ACT (good to have)

    • If you have to retake, do it three times at most before senior year.
  • Look for summer programs that interest you and create a timeline for the remaining summers.

Junior year -


    • Same as above, but just need to drill it in their heads.
  • Take the highest rigor courses possible.

    • AP Bio, AP Chem, AP Lang, etc.
  • Community college is your best friend.

    • Consider taking the CC courses the high school offers.
    • If there are courses that appeal to your passion and the school doesn’t offer them, take them.
    • There’s online classes which don’t have a specific time slot.
  • Stay consistent with your EC activities.
  • Consider a job/internship/research.
  • Fully fill out the brag sheet - you’ll need it for Letters of Recommendation in college

    • Ask early - teachers will be slammed senior year with last minute LoRs, and you’ll want a quality paper.
    • Preferably junior year teachers, but anyone you’ve kept close with is good.
    • You’ll want at least one STEM and one Humanities teacher, and then preferably someone completely random for your supplementary.
  • Start a list of scholarships and colleges based on your profile (GPA, test scores, demographic, campus, student life, etc.)

    • You should have three types of schools: reaches, targets, and safeties.

Senior year -

The summer before…

  • Start drafting essays (PIQs are the same, Common App prompts open Aug. 1)

    • This is a whole game in itself - you should prepare well in advance.
  • Tour the colleges, talk to alumni, and get a good sense of culture.
  • Don’t have too many chefs in the kitchen regarding your college search strategy - you’ll want to keep consistent with the advice and pathway you follow.


  • Maintain a good sense of course rigor, but it doesn’t need to be as hard as junior year.

    • Treat college app & scholarship season as another class - it’ll take up the same amount of time, if not more.
  • Keep doing what you’ve been doing the past 3 years, but don’t stress too much and enjoy your last year.
  • Start the applications ASAP.

    • Fill out FAFSA (for financial aid) on Oct. 1.


  • If you’re ready to accept a college’s offer, congrats!

    • Accept by May 1 & figure out the process of sending your high school (and possibly college transcripts) to the school.
  • If you don’t get into the college of your dreams, it’s not the end of the world.

    • The stigma behind community colleges is a lie.

      • You save plenty of money and have time to figure out your major.
      • DVC gives you a second chance if high school didn’t work out too well.
      • DVC also has an 80% transfer rate into Berkeley among other top tier UCs.
      • The UCs only take into account things done in CC.
      • In some ways, it’s easier classes and easier to transfer.
    • In addition, some colleges accept on a rolling basis - meaning they accept applications any time of the year.