College application season is again upon us, with students busily writing essays and organizing their applications, and deadlines approaching quickly. For students in earlier years of high school/ secondary school, seeing those students busy with applications is a great time to think about how to plan ahead, to make your application process less stressful and more thoughtful.

Here are some things you should start doing as early as Grade 9/ Year 10:

Get involved in activities

Involvement and impact cannot be rushed, so if you want to have meaningful experiences with depth and consistency of involvement (all things schools are looking for in strong applicants), you need to start early, stay involved, and position yourself to become more involved (potentially in a leadership role) as your time with the activity progresses.

Plan for taking standardized tests (SAT/ ACT)

There’s no reason to take these tests in the 9th grade, but planning a timeline for both preparing for, registering and taking the tests, should be on your To Do list. Last spring, the SAT reduced the number of International SAT Test Dates to four each academic year, so planning has become even more important. Also, many students take these tests 2 or 3 times, and having gaps between each test date is important so that you can focus on improving areas where you didn’t get the scores you wanted.

Start researching schools early

There’s no need to have a final college list until the summer before your Grade 12/Year 13, but starting to think about factors that are important to you in a college or university, and researching schools, will enable you to have a clear sense of schools that are a good fit. Early research will also allow you to plan a college tour of schools you are most excited about, and also allow those visits to be more meaningful since you can focus on getting more detailed information to inform your perceptions about the school.