The Road to College Admissions

turned on black gps monitor
Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

The road to college admissions can be rocky. Lost for where to start your journey to attending college? Wondering if you’re way behind your peers? Confused about what step comes next?

Don’t worry! We have a map to help you find your way. There are steps you can take to improve your candidacy for a university acceptance, through all four years–and especially those critical months leading up to graduation. Along with resources and some hard work, you can make it to the finish line! 

Step #1: Breathe.

We know all this information can be confusing, which is why everyone’s favorite graphic design Empowerly superhero, Sophia Minhas, has broken each step down for you. These are major sign-posts to let you know what to do. But don’t let this box you in! Feel free to skim ahead if you’re starting early, or review early years even if you’re already past them. 

If you’re stuck anywhere along the route, there are resources to help you get back on track. From digital databases on our student portal, to essay editing and research answers on-demand, you can call in experts; it doesn’t need to feel impossible. Not only can we help you catch up if you missed a step in the past, our approach will help you emphasize your current strengths to make sure you stand out.

Here’s a quick key for those of you new to American schools!

  • Middle School = Usually grades 6, 7, and 8 together 
  • Junior High School = Usually grades 7 and 8 together (sometimes 9)
  • High school:
    • Freshman (or freshman year) = First year of high school, grade 9
    • Sophomore (or sophomore year) = Second year of high school, grade 10
    • Junior (or junior year) = Third year of high school, grade 11
    • Senior (or senior year) = Fourth year of high school, grade 12 
  • Then graduation and beyond!

So where does your road to college admissions begin? No matter how early you begin to show interest or aptitude for a subject theme area, you can begin laying foundational habits and skills that will prove invaluable later in life.

Now, let’s get down to business… 

As you can see, this guide walks you through each semester of your high school education. But don’t forget to take advantage of those summers, too! Even if your teachers or peers aren’t thinking ahead, we know that summer break from class is the perfect opportunity to set yourself apart. If you don’t know what summer activities are available in your area, you can always turn to the internet for guidance. Not your cup of tea? Empowerly has tried-and-true methods and recommendations to help you out in that department, too. 

Here are some suggestions for superstar summers along your road-way to college:

Rising Freshman Summer [8-9th]:

Prepare for a whole new school! Reach out to friends, walk around the campus once or twice so you know where your classroom buildings will be, and look at the list of clubs you can join. You can also brush up on fundamental subjects.

Rising Sophomore Summer [9th-10th]:

Practice target skills, take a class at a local community college or online, build good writing and study habits, and focus on exploration with extracurriculars and subjects.

Rising Junior Summer [10th-11th]:

Take slightly more advanced independent courses in subject areas you are most interested in, and start participating in camps or competitions. Think about what majors most interest you and work toward them. Prepare for standardized tests.

Rising Senior Summer [11th-12th]:

Apply for competitive summer programs, internships, and hands-on opportunities to set yourself apart with a weeks or months-long intensive. And as stated above, begin hard work on the actual applications.

Final Summer before college:

Spend time with your family, check off any bucket list activities in your hometown, study, and get excited for your new home for the next few years! Some schools offer bridge classes to help you adjust to college workloads. You’ve graduated and earned a pat on the back.


So now you’ve got the basics on lock. Looking for a customized checklist? This guide is relatively generalized, so we focus on information that will help all students. However, if you have a special situation, we recommend getting individual advice. A one-on-one counseling session will help you explain your goals to a mentor and they will be able to work with you to decide what makes most sense for you. 

Call us today. We will be happy to answer your questions about how to get started and set you up with a complimentary consultation session to share more information about our program and approach. Your road to college admissions and beyond should be as individualized as you are. We are here to help you fall in love with your true best-fit schools, and hopefully, to make the process valuable.

Questions? Let us know!