Acing Your Sophomore Year
Why it’s important to plan early
In our 9th Grade Checklist, we emphasized the importance of starting right away on the huge “to-do” list you must accomplish for college applications.
Beginning freshman year, you only have 40 months until college applications are due. To be a highly competitive candidate for top universities, you need to gain top grades, top test scores, meaningful extracurricular activities, accolades, letters of recommendation, plus a compelling application essay.
By 10th grade, you’re down to just 30 months.
You may have been thinking: “I don’t need to worry about college applications until junior or senior year.” We’re here to gently remind you otherwise!
The truth is, there is no way to accomplish all of these items and have still have fun high school experiences unless you begin early.
It’s normal to quickly feel overwhelmed, behind, and unprepared.
But all you really need is a plan!
Our 10th grade checklist below details what you should accomplish during your sophomore year and when you should accomplish it. We’ve also included the MEK Review courses that will best help you accomplish these goals. This will help you create a plan and stay on track.
Remember, this is a checklist for top achievers, students who want to apply to Ivy Leagues and top 10 universities, so always keep in mind your key priorities:
- Your well-being
Grades are the most important factor for college admissions, and your well-being is the most important factor, period. This plan should help eliminate stress by dividing 30 months of work more evenly across the remaining three years of high school. You don’t want to end up stressed and panicked during your junior and senior year.
10th Grade Checklist: Summer – 2 months
Remember, we said to start early and divide the work over time.
Preparing early and consistently is the key to not becoming overwhelmed during the fall and spring semester. Start your sophomore year confident and ready.
With that said, here is your to-do list:
1. Prepare for rigorous Math and Science classes.
A huge factor in college admissions is not only grades but also the “strength of curriculum.” That means the difficulty level of your courses. Did you challenge yourself with honors, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate(IB) classes, or stick to regular courses?
Plus, if you are applying to top STEM fields, they will want to see your passion for science and math reflected in your courses. Did you take one year of Chemistry or two? Did you take AP Physics but walk away with a C+ average?
The best way to impress admission officers is to take advanced classes and ace them. To do that, you need to familiarize yourself with the content and proper study habits early.
That’s why MEK offers Summer H.S. Honors courses in subjects such as 2nd Year Chemistry, Pre-Calculus, Physics, and more! These courses introduce you to over half of the curriculum you will encounter in the upcoming school year and teach you crucial study habits for success.
2. Prepare for the SAT Reading and Writing sections.
Now is the perfect time to start serious preparation for the SAT.
During the school year, you will have to balance many priorities. But in the summer, you have the freedom to devote yourself to test prep and make huge improvements in just several weeks. If you’ve read our 9th grade checklist, then you know the secret of students who seem to effortlessly ace the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject tests, and AP exams — they started preparing early!
If you take our P(SAT) Core Reading and Writing class for 9-10th graders, you can finish the official SAT by the end of your sophomore year! Think of all the time and energy that will free up for your junior year, when you most likely be taking a number of AP and SAT Subject tests.
Also, SAT prep boosts student’s reading comprehension, vocabulary, writing skills, and grammar and mechanics — all essential skills needed for honors English classes.
3. Continue to explore extracurricular activities.
The summer is long! Use it not just to boost your grades and test scores, but also to dive deeper into extracurricular activities. Whether it’s going to a camp, competing in a competition, or volunteering at a community service project, use the summer to explore your interests and passions.
10th Grade Checklist: Fall – 5 months
The beginning of your sophomore year means you’re down to 28 months before your college applications deadline.
Make the most of it by concentrating on earning stellar grades and committing to activities that reflect your academic and personal interests.
1. Boost Your GPA
As always, your main focus should be high grades.
Make sure you read the syllabus, talk to your teachers, and write down all relevant information in your student planner. You should have a crystal clear idea of the homework, tests, and expectations required for each class.
Be careful to not overdo it on your course schedule. You want to show admission officers that you are willing to challenge yourself, but you also want high grades. Find a healthy balance between too easy and too hard in selecting your classes.
3. Take the PSAT in October.
Take the preliminary PSAT in October. Only juniors are eligible to become National Merit Scholars and earn scholarships based on their PSAT scores.
However, your junior year PSAT will be pressure filled. Definitely allow yourself an official practice run by taking it your sophomore year. This will let you know how much your SAT prep has paid off so far and give you a good idea of how far you have to go, if you are aiming for National Merit status in your junior year.
4. Join Extracurricular Activities
In 9th grade, you should explore different extracurricular activities to discover your passions and talents. By 10th grade, you should continue that exploration but start committing deeper to activities that best reflect your interests, especially your academic interests.
10th Grade Checklist: Spring – 5 months
1. Boost Your GPA
Always stay focused on maintaining high grades. Adjust your study routine, as needed, to give yourself more time to focus on strengthening areas of struggle. Check out our 3 Secrets to Getting and Keeping a Top GPA for more tips and tricks.
2. Finalize High School Activity List
Now it’s time to full on commit to what activities you want to prioritize and participate in. Admission officers don’t care about quantity so much as quality.
It’s not about the number of activities you participate in. It’s about participating in a few activities in a meaningful way. You should also pick activities that reflect a specific interest, talent, or character trait of yours.
3. Take SAT Chemistry and/or SAT Math II
If you’re interested in the STEM field or top colleges, this is your chance to check off the second of your college admission tests.
To become a competitive candidate for top schools, you have to take more than just the SAT or ACT. SAT Subject tests will help you to successfully showcase your skills and passion in specific fields. In 9th grade, we suggest taking SAT Bio. In 10th grade, many sophomores take Chemistry or 2nd Year Chemistry which makes the SAT Chemistry test ideal for taking in the May or June SAT. Also for many sophomores, they have reached the level of Math they will need for SAT Math II.
Subject tests are notoriously difficult though, so explore our SAT Subject Prep classes and give yourself plenty of time to adequately prepare.
4. Take AP Tests
If you’re already in an Advanced Placement class, there is no need to pile all of the AP tests into your junior year. Start early by taking a few AP classes your sophomore year.
Of course, you don’t want to take any AP test in a subject you have no prior knowledge of , so match your AP exam schedule with your classes and check out our AP test prep.
If you are not in any AP classes or your school doesn’t give you the option to take an AP class your sophomore year, then don’t worry. Just take your AP tests in your junior year.
5. Take official SAT or ACT
If you are not taking any AP tests, then you should intensively prepare for the SAT or ACT and take your first official test in Spring. Students who take our P(SAT) Core Class in 9th and beginning of 10th grade, are usually ready by Spring of 10th grade to transfer to our SAT: Advanced or ACT: Advanced class and work toward earning a 1500+ on the SAT or 34+ on the ACT. Students who are taking AP tests, should plan to switch to rigorous SAT or ACT Prep in the summer.
Next Steps for Success
Complete these items and you’ve set yourself up for success over the remaining 2 years! If you’re struggling in a certain area – grades, test prep, study habits – MEK Review is here to guide you every step of the way.
We can’t wait to hear from you!
Up Next! 11th grade checklist