April 1, 2024

5 Tips For High School Students Preparing for College

Learn what you need to do at high school to prepare for your university studies
High school illustrated elements featuring diversity.

Are you a high school student? Are you anxious about your future?  Are you unsure of the high school track you need to choose? Do you want to maximize your high school years? Then, this blog is for YOU

Studies and surveys reveal that the majority of high schoolers in their journey of 2-3 years at high school are not well prepared for university!  In fact, Hechinger Report (2017) reveals that more than half the high school students are not ready for college-level work. Besides, 93% of high school students do not think high schools are fully preparing students to succeed in the future, according to a survey by XQ Institute

This blog will help you prepare for your future by developing your skills by giving you ideas, tips, links, and information on how to improve your academic dossier and ultimately your CV.

1. The Role of High School Education in Shaping a Student’s Future

High school is the last stage in basic education before entering university, before finding a career, and before adult life. As an adolescent, you have so much on your plate to digest and prepare. So, your journey to university starts HERE at the high school level. 

Well, the stronger a portfolio you build, the better chances you create. Your preparation is not limited to academic excellence; it transcends to developing soft skills, language competence, technological expertise, and ultimately your resume through volunteering, training, and workshops.

Attaining a Strong GPA

Academic excellence is displayed through your grades as well as your attitude towards studying. That is, your GPA at school along with the study habits you develop make up the right recipe for success.

Having a high GPA (Grade Point Average) plays a great role in facilitating the path to university. Colleges and universities as well as employers refer to GPA to assess a student's academic abilities and potential success in higher education or the workforce.

But, what GPA do you need to graduate high school? Well, the higher the GPA, the better chances you have of being accepted at university. GPA, a numerical representation of your academic performance throughout the three high school years, has a scale of 0 to 4, as displayed below:

GPA and Percentage of the grade

4.0: 90-100%

3.0: 80-89%

2.0: 70-79%

1.0: 60-69%

0.0: 0-59%

You can easily calculate your GPA: you average the grades received in all subjects taken and divide by the number of credit hours assigned to each course. 

GPA = Total Credit Hours/Total Grade Points

Getting a 4.0 GPA is not far-fetched. Disciplining yourself and acquiring effective study habits will reflect on your mind and body equally. Here are some actions you can do to elevate your GPA:

  • Attending classes regularly and consistently while minimizing your absences to ZERO maximizes your learning opportunities. Research has shown a proportional correlation between attendance and academic achievement. The higher the commitment to attendance, the higher the academic achievement.
  • Concentrating in class minimizes the time you spend doing a task alone at home. You will have the opportunity to engage with the material in real time, ask questions, and stay engaged. Teachers have pedagogical techniques that facilitate the understanding of complex phenomena and information.
  • Studying and doing assignments is inevitable to retain what has been explained in class. Note-taking in class allows you to review what has been explained instead of relying on your memory. Solving extra exercises on one topic deepens your understanding in that topic and reveals areas you need support with.

2. Developing Effective Study Habits

The ultimate secret to a high GPA is study habits. Consider your brain as a muscle: the more you train it, the stronger it becomes and the higher you achieve. All high achievers have study habits that have proved to be effective. One of these habits is the Pomodoro Technique, which helps you focus better when studying. Try it out: 

  1. Select a single task to focus on.
  2. Set a timer for 25-30 minutes 
  3. Work continuously until the timer goes off.
  4. Take a productive 5-minute break around, get a snack, relax.
  5. Repeat steps 2 & 3 for 4 rounds; then take a longer (20-30 minutes) break.


 You can set your study habits considering the following:

  • Set a goal and a time: For any task or assignment, set the time and the content you need to cover and stick to it. 
  • Be realistic in the goal you set. That is, for a mathematics assignment, for example, you might set one-hour to solve it or more depending on its length and complexity.
  •  Chunk your task so as not to feel overwhelmed. For a test or an exam, divide the content into chapters or pages, and set a specific time for each. This way, you work on your psychology and make the test or the exam achievable. 
  • Prioritize your tasks: some tasks are urgent while others are not. If a task can be done in a few minutes, then do it and cross it from your list. Always consider the time frame and urgency of a task.
  • Remove all distractions nearby, be it your cell phone, TV or iPad
  • Reward yourself when you are done with the task, with a timeout, a walk, a snack, or social media scrolling. 
  • Be organized: Record all tasks on your calendar, your notebook, or notepad to keep track of what you have to do. Do not belittle this habit! Successful people carry an agenda, whether digital or paper, and jot down their tasks. This would ensure that you avoid forgetfulness and fulfill the requirements you have. It also informs you on decisions, whether you are ready to accept a proposal to go out with friends or postpone it.
  • Don’t procrastinate: Do not leave your studying till the last minute! Do not torture yourself and your brain. Give yourself a chance to review the materials, read, practice, and solve other exercises.
  • Choose your spot for studying: Find a calm place to study with minimal distractions and interruptions.
  • Study with peers: Studying in groups usually retains knowledge faster and longer, especially if you explain a specific equation or phenomenon to your colleagues. 
  • Balance your eating and sleeping: a healthy mind is in a healthy body. Control your eating, exercising, and sleeping habits to have optimal energy for school chores.

The choice of study habits is considered successful as long as they yield successful results and leave a positive impact on your academic performance.

3. Strengthening Your Skills and Competences

High school years are not only about studying; they are also about developing socially, mentally, culturally, emotionally, and personally. So, moving parallel with academic achievement is developing your soft skills as well as your technological and linguistic competence. 

Soft Skills you need to acquire

As a high schooler, the main two soft skills to develop are communication and critical thinking. Soft skills, like most skills,  are best developed through practice, and the high school milieu presents many opportunities to practice them, whether through curricular or extracurricular activities. 

  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills can be simply developed by taking simple actions:
    • Increase your participation in class especially when it is group work,
    • Initiate discussions and always be receptive to others' opinions,
    • Join extracurricular activities and clubs where you interact with people,
    • Participate at and organize events with your colleagues that serve your community. 
    • Seek leadership roles, like becoming the class representative, the organizer for a field trip, and the like
    • Attend classes on public speaking and interpersonal skills through websites and apps like edX , Toastmasters, and LinkedIn  to name a few.
    • Build relations of respect and mutual understanding with colleagues, peers, and other students from other classes
  • Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills are essential for a successful life as they help you with decision-making and overcoming obstacles. These skills can be sharpened through communication and many other actions:some text
    • Observation: Observe with the eye of your mind, look at details and figure out connections and relationships.
    • Asking questions: Be inquisitive and always question what you hear or read. Never take things for granted.
    • Reading, Reading, Reading: Among the most beneficial ways to become a critical thinker is through reading and building background information about diverse topics.
    • Solving Puzzles and Brain Teasers: challenges make you a better problem solver and stimulate your analytical skills. You can find some interesting problem-solving and critical thinking exercises on Philosophy Experiments and Critical Thinking Web.
    • Participating in STEM Projects: Get involved in science projects that involve hands-on problem-solving and experimentation.
    • Starting a Creative Project: Engage in any creative endeavor that requires problem-solving and innovation; whatever hobby you have can become a creative project. Join Shabab Lab to start your social innovation and entrepreneurship journey.

You can enrich your CV and develop your skills through the many and diverse courses available through Jusoor’s Coursera scholarship program.

Technological Competence

In this era, lack of technological knowledge means illiteracy! So, it is imperative to know the essential skills of  Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to cope up with this changing and demanding world and access knowledge and information. But what tech skills are necessary to have for a high schooler? Well, here are some: 

  • Word Processing: using software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs to write essays, reports, and other assignments
  • Presentation Tools: Use presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides
  • Internet Research Skills: using search engines and citing information properly.
  • Spreadsheets: Understanding how to use spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to organize data, perform calculations, create charts, and analyze information
  • Cybersecurity Awareness: Understanding the basics of cybersecurity, including concepts like password management, online privacy, safe browsing habits, and recognizing potential threats like phishing scams
  • Communication and Collaboration Tools: Use communication and collaboration tools like email, instant messaging, and video conferencing platforms (e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams)

You can improve your tech skills by taking Microsoft ICDL courses for free.

Linguistic Competence

Mastering the English language has become inevitable as all universities require a certification of your English language skills. You can improve your English by practicing it via:

  • Duolingo provides practice in reading, listening, speaking, writing, vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and pronunciation
  • HelloTalk connects you with native speakers to chat with them for free
  • College board helps you prepare for the SAT exam
  • Khan Academy: provides free SAT preparation materials 
  • The Princeton Review  offers free SAT practice tests online

You should sit for an English test while you are in Grade 11 or at the beginning of Grade 12 before you start preparing for your Baccalaureate exam. The accepted tests at most universities are:

  • SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The SAT is a multiple-choice, computer-based test that aims to measure students' knowledge of math, reading, and writing, as well as their college readiness, created and administered by the College Board.
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is among the world's most popular English language tests for higher education and global migration. It tests you in the four skills: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. A score of 6.0 /9.0 is required for university. It can be done online and in-person and costs around $250. You can prepare for it through the British Council IELTS practice platform.
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardized test to measure the English language ability of non-native speakers wishing to enroll in English-speaking universities. It tests your reading, writing, speaking, and listening abilities, either online with IBT TOEFL or in person. A score of 100/120 and above can land you in top-ranking universities. 
  • Duolingo English Test (DET) is a standardized test of the English language, designed to be internet-based. It tests your reading, writing, speaking, and listening abilities. It is becoming increasingly more accepted and it is significantly cheaper than SAT, IELTS, or TOEFL. 

4. Involvement in Extracurricular Activities 

Enriching your Resume is your target in high school years. In addition to certificates in English language proficiency, soft skills acquisition, technological mastery, and academic excellence, you need to show your involvement in your community. This can be done through extracurricular activities, be it volunteering, community service, attending training and workshops, practicing sports, joining clubs and art programs, or any hobby or talent you have to practice outside of your regular high school classes. These extracurricular activities provide you with the opportunity for personal growth, skill development, social interaction, and leadership experience. 

Engaging in Community Service and Volunteering

Depending on the high school and the country, community service is part of the high school program and students have to cover 40 hours of community service and/or work-based learning. Regardless, community service remains one of the most crucial experiences to include in your CV. It can start from your SCHOOL when it organizes some initiatives like: 

  • Cleaning the beach, the neighborhood, or any other public area
  • Visiting an elderly care home and spending time with them
  • Collecting clothes, donations,  and/or food and distributing them to the needy
  • Providing tutoring classes to underachievers or to lower grade levels
  • Performing certain tasks at public libraries or museums

You can also do volunteer work through local or international NGOs, and your service can be done either in person or online. Some volunteering opportunities even require you to travel.  Here are some links and details about volunteering:

  • UN Volunteer: after creating a profile, UNV provides volunteering opportunities online, in your country, or abroad. 
  • EU Funded Volunteering Opportunities shows all volunteering opportunities worldwide. You choose the country or any other details and you get to see the opportunities available.  
  • LOYAC is an NGO established in Kuwait in 2002 with an aim of empowering youth to become impactful leaders in society. It operates in Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, and Yemen.
  • Tarjimly helps refugees and immigrants with interpretation and translation. You can volunteer ONLINE to donate your time and translation skill flexibly and according to your own schedule through your smartphone through the app
  • INJAZ Lebanon, a non-profit organization, aims to educate and prepare Lebanon’s youth to become qualified and successful employees and entrepreneurs 
  • The Volunteer Circle, Lebanon, matches volunteers with local businesses, start-ups, and NGOs.
  •  International Volunteer HQ  provides volunteer holidays with volunteer travel opportunities. This is worldwide. 
  • Volunteer Match displays volunteering opportunities per country with the choice of online or in-person. 
  • Tkiyet Um Ali, Jordan, has 16 volunteering programs, mostly in-person.

Make sure to request a certificate for your community service and volunteering from the organization you volunteered at, and add this certificate to your dossier.

Attending Training and Workshops

You can definitely sharpen your skills with further training and workshops. There are many free and prestigious training programs that prepare you for university. Here are some training scholarships and mentorship programs:

  • Safar Ibiary Syrian College Prep Program: makes the dream of studying in the United States possible for highly qualified Syrian students from underserved populations in Lebanon. It prepares Syrian students to receive assistance (essay writing assistance, application and testing fees, and 1st year activities) for a bachelor’s degree at a U.S. university.
  • SYE : Syrian students are eligible for the SYE One Year Program which provides  mentoring and financial support to students navigating the college application process, preparing them to begin undergraduate degrees at competitive universities worldwide the following academic year.
  • Jusoor-Coursera Scholarship: allows students to take any course online on Coursera for free to learn about any skill or any major and earn certificates.
  • The International Syrian Association for Education Development (Syrian Association) is an international network designed to support Syrian students. They provide: mentoring, advisory, online learning workshops, and networking. They help you with your IELTS exams.
  • Syrian Youth Assembly Academy: provides refugees and IDPs with free access to various educational services such as online courses, language learning, language testing, programming, mentoring, and the like.
  • Yes Program: The Kennedy‐Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program provides scholarships for high school students to study for one academic year in the United States. YES students live with a host family, attend an American high school, acquire leadership skills, and engage in activities to learn about U.S. society and values.

These programs are life transforming; they prepare you for your university and support you financially to sit for some exams. Do not lose such an opportunity! These programs can be taken at Grades 10 or 11, so you focus on your official exam in Grade 12.

5. Career Exploration and Guidance

The ultimate goal of studying is to find a career. This also starts at the high school level, and career guidance programs facilitate this mission. For example, at Jusoor supported partner high schools, high school students receive University Application Support (UAS) through which they receive guidance on what career to choose and which scholarship(s) to apply to. 

Students are usually confused about what to choose, mainly because of the insufficient knowledge of in-demand careers and the criteria of each major. First, let’s bridge the information gap, and then move to programs, websites, or tests you can do to figure out what your future career might be. 

Understanding Different Career Paths

At many high schools worldwide, students have to choose a specific track, roughly divided into three: scientific, literary, and industrial/vocational. Your choice of track basically affects your career path. Always think of your interest, your points of strength, and the demand of the job market to see which jobs align with your aspirations. 

Career planning includes roughly four basic  steps depending on the student:

  1. Self-assessment: You can do that through many available websites. One of them is  O*NET Interest Profiler. It is a free career quiz that helps you take a closer look at your interests which can be aligned to certain career paths.
  2. Career exploration: This can be done through some text
    1. Visiting universities when they hold open days, which are usually announced on universities’  websites. 
    2. Accessing universities’ websites to view what majors they offer.
  3. Career identification: It happens when you match your skill and interests with the available in-demand jobs. It also helps if you consider whether your career would sustain a well-off life based on the salary.
  4. Career plan: Your career plan is a calculated mission. Here is a helpful blog on how to choose a university, program of study, and scholarship. 

Seeking Mentorship and Guidance

The mission of identification of a career can be facilitated by attending mentorship programs. Here are two career guidance websites:

  • Syria Education: This career guide is a collection of articles for students and young adults to understand their learning styles and aptitudes that will help them make the right career decisions for themselves.
  • Jusoor Career Development Program: It connects Syrian talent with income generation, builds targeted skillsets, and creates innovative employment pipelines.

Internship Opportunities

The best test to know whether the major you have chosen fits your interests is through an experiential learning opportunity; that is, undergoing an internship or an externship. Both ways allow you the chance to practice the job but differ in duration and commitment. Externship can be looked at as a volunteering experience. After the internship/externship, you might decide that this is not the job you want after all! 

  • Microsoft High School Discovery Program: This 4-week experience is for students involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). It is onsite in Redmond, WA, and is paid for its full-time work. Students will gain on-the-job experience in challenging yet achievable projects, working closely with Microsoft’s top minds.
  • Google High School Internship: It is a unique immersive experience for high school students to enter the realm of coding, algorithms, and problem-solving. It is also highly competitive. 
  • Interning at Amideast: Amideast offices offer a range of internship opportunities and allow interns to practice their English and other communication skills and assist in teaching, implementing programs, and working with youth. Check with the Amideast office nearest you to find out what internship opportunities are offered.
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine High School Internship: Interns shadow healthcare professionals, attend medical rounds, and engage in hands-on experiences that provide a comprehensive view of various medical specialties. This immersive program not only exposes students to the daily workings of a medical institution but also allows them to witness the impact of medical care on patients. 
  • The New York Times High School Journalism Program: This internship offers firsthand experience in reporting, writing, and editing news stories. Collaborating with professionals, participants attend press conferences, contribute to real news articles, and immerse themselves in the dynamic world of journalism. 
  • NASA High School Internship Program: This opportunity allows high school students to collaborate with top scientists and engineers on real projects, like contributing to satellite designs and analyzing data from space missions. By working alongside professionals at NASA, students can envision a future career path in aerospace engineering, astrophysics, or related fields.
  • The Smith Summer Science and Engineering Program: This program is a dynamic and immersive experience into the world of science and engineering that allows students to explore various STEM fields through hands-on research projects, laboratory work, and interactive workshops. 

Always surf the web for up-to-date calls on internships, volunteering, and mentorship programs.

The Beginning of Another Journey

Maximizing your high school years starts with a decision! You need to make the call and start the journey by preparing your dossier for your university studies. As you embark on this path, remember that every step you take, every test you sit for, every training you attend, every volunteering you do,  and every decision you make, contributes to the foundation of your future success and career choice. 

Focusing on academic excellence, strengthening your skills and competencies, actively participating in extracurricular activities, and exploring various career paths are ways for a successful transition to university life. Remember, your high school years are not just about acquiring knowledge from textbooks, but also about honing essential life skills and discovering your passions. Through dedication, perseverance, and a proactive approach, you can maximize your high school experience and position yourself for a fulfilling and rewarding university education. Have a fantastic high school journey!

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