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How Pre-High Schoolers Should Prep for College, Presented by IvyWise

IvyWise CEO and founder Dr. Katherine Cohen shares pro tips on jumpstarting a four-year plan

Dozens of college admissions success stories flood the pages of ivywise.com, and it’s no surprise why. This year, 92 percent of IvyWise students were accepted into one or more of their top three choice universities.

The leading Manhattan-based educational consulting firm offers a range of services—tutoring and test preparation, research, academic support tailored to individual programs, counseling and college application review and feedback, to name a few—for students all over the world eager to gain entry into their dream schools. Their team is comprised of recent deans and directors of admissions who read applications at top-tier colleges like Princeton, Yale and MIT, all of whom provide individual attention to students around the clock. And while there’s no shortage of college counselors out there, IvyWise sets itself far apart from the pack.

Dr. Katherine Cohen

Dr. Katherine Cohen

“We have no competitors,” says CEO and founder Dr. Katherine Cohen. “Most other independent counselors in the world are mom-and-pop services. At IvyWise, every student receives the benefit of our entire team’s expertise.”

The college admissions process is highly competitive and it’s never too early to start prepping, so DuJour chatted with Cohen about how 8th graders can keep their fingers on the pulse of college admission before entering high school. 

On freshman classes:
Incoming freshman should count on taking five core courses in science, English, social science, math and foreign language their first year and every following year of high school. Some colleges stipulate the required number of years one must spend in each subject. Ask friends, mentors and check online to see which teachers get the best feedback. Even if you don’t think you are a natural at biology, let’s say, a great teacher can help any engaged and open student excel. It is also very important for incoming freshmen to start on the right track for math and science courses—taking the most advanced courses they can, as it is very difficult to transfer into higher level courses later in high school if they aren’t in an advanced class to begin with.

On activities to take up to prepare for high school:
Do you love soccer, creative writing, drama, sculpture, debate, teaching children or protecting the environment? Pinpoint a couple of hobbies or extracurricular activities you truly enjoy. By getting started in 8th grade, you can make connections with program leaders and faculty who run particular clubs and begin building strong connections that can take you through high school and potentially open up more possibilities down the line.

For all activities, it is important to show consistency and commitment. Students shouldn’t attempt to do everything. Colleges don’t want to see tens of clubs on your resume; they prefer a student that is clearly passionate about a few activities. Be a specialist rather than a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

On starting test prep before high school:
I wouldn’t recommend starting test prep for the ACT/SAT before high school. It is too soon to soak in the information and retain it for a future test.

On playing an instrument:
If students have a real interest in playing an instrument and intend to join the school band, start a radio station where they play live occasionally, create concerts on campus or for the elderly as a volunteer opportunity, then starting to play in 8th grade is a great idea! On the other hand, if students only plan on playing through their freshmen year, the time spent learning the instrument might be better spent on something else they are more committed to.

On creating a four-year plan:
High school is a fresh start, but even the beginning counts. A student’s entire transcript—freshman year through senior year—will be a part of their college application. Students should sit down with parents and guidance counselors to set academic goals for freshman year of high school and beyond. Be honest and pinpoint strengths versus weaknesses. Identify any unique interests and check to see what interesting courses you may want to take advantage of. It is helpful to know which classes you’ll need to gain admissions to the university of your choice, and we often recommend that IvyWise students start backwards from where they know they will want to be senior year in order to know what classes they will need to take in order to reach their academic goals.