What do college students wish they'd done differently in high school?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

What do college students wish they'd done differently in high school?

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

What do college students wish they'd done differently in high school?

Most students are happy with their experiences in college and don't have regrets about high school. For every student who wished he was challenged more and with brighter peers there is a brilliant slacker who is perfectly happy not working any harder than they did in high school or college.

William Chichester

What do college students wish they'd done differently in high school?

Start college planning sooner! Choose your high school classes wisely and make sure you're taking the most challenging classes in your high school. Participate in after school programs and clubs.

Kim Glenchur
Educational Consultant CollegesGPS

Too many choices

Some people have known since childhood what they want to study in college. Others experience a "eureka" moment sparking their life's work. Most students, however, enter college undecided on their objectives, hoping that something will click when taking an elective course. Part of college preparation is to discover individual strengths and interests, and how to develop them during and after college. More critical than getting into college is how a student gets out of college. A major difficulty before college is gaining exposure to what the world has to offer, particularly in interdisciplinary fields. For many students, finding an academic direction before college can focus efforts to do well in high school and identify related extracurricular opportunities.

Dori Middlebrook
Owner Dori Middlebrook Educational Consulting

What do college students wish they'd done differently in high school?

Many college students report wishing they had worked harder in high school and challenged themselves more with Honors and AP classes. Friends in college started with many college credits due to their success on AP exams. Others wish they had started testing (SAT and ACT) earlier in order to have more time to improve their scores. Some wish they took SAT subject tests so they had those scores in case they wanted to apply to a school that required them. Some college students regret not getting more involved at their high school or in their community with clubs, organizations, sports and community service. Many wish they had visited more schools before their senior year or taken more of an interest in the process early on.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC

GPA Begin with An A

An A is worth the same whether it is freshman year or senior year, so start strong and establish a solid GPA from the outset so that you don't have to fight to compensate for a low 9th grade GPA.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

High School Hindsight

The number one regret I hear from clients is always about their poor academic performance during HS. While you can't change the grades, you can try to improve your transcript with the time remaining. An upward trend in grades means a lot to the admissions committee.

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

What do college students wish they had done differently in high school?

As the former College Consultant at a large independent high school, I hosted return of the alumni events. Former students returned during the winter holidays to share their insights with current juniors and seniors. Invariably the one thing that they always mentioned was they wished they had developed better study habits, particulary being organized, and not procrastinating. Developing that discipline in high school will serve you well when there is not one keeping track of whether or not you complete assignments or even show up at class. You simply must have that internal motivation and organization to succeed in college! Francine Schwartz Founder and President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Executive Management Skills

Often they wish they had learned executive management competencies: how to organize, study skills, time management and prioritizing. All of these skills are essential to handling your new responsibilities as no one will be looking over your shoulder to make sure you finished your papers and projects OR getting you up in time for that 9am class.

Helen Cella

What do college students wish they'd done differently in high school?

Care less about what their peers thought and experiment more

Nicholas Umphrey

If I could do it again..

I get a lot of the same responses to this question each year when I have had graduating students return after their first semester of college to speak to senior students about college life. Most students talk about the importance of writing effectively in college and also being prepared for the amount of reading required in their classes. Many students feel like they would have focused more on this in high school if they knew what was to come. The most important factor they tell me is around study skills and organization. Many students struggle with the sudden independence they receive and do not remain accountable for their studies. This includes things like staying up until 2 am and sleeping through your 8 am class the next day. As a college counselor, I can already see who has these skills when I do the college application process with them in their senior year. The kids who get me their application materials 1-2 days before the due date need to be better prepared and organized in this process. These are also the kids who tend not to have the same organizational skills needed to perform well in college.