For a lot of students, they do not really start thinking about college until their junior or senior year of high school. Even then, college seems distant and the only really important consideration is that they keep their grades up. While some students take advantage of their four years to take steps that best prepare them for applying to and entering college, this mindset is far from the norm. While academics are certainly important to your future at college, it’s not the only important aspect to consider. Here are other pieces of advice for high school to set yourself up for success in college.

Utilize your school counselor

As early as your freshman year, you can begin talking to your school counselor about options for college and have them help you plan your path for the rest of high school. School counselors are trained to talk to students about their plans for college and help guide them to find the best fit. Be open and talk about your interests and what you’re looking for in a college. You can learn a lot and find out about schools you would have never visited; you’ll also get helpful advice on what you can do in high school to benefit your college search.

Participate in a variety of activities

You could completely excel in academics, but many colleges want to see well-rounded candidates. Make it a priority to get involved as much as possible in high school. Step up to leadership positions, participate in sports if you enjoy them, and find other hobbies, such as music or theatre. Focus on your academics, but expand in other areas as well. A lot of colleges also like to see applicants who have held part-time jobs while also going to school.

Do your research

Before you apply to colleges, it’s important that you have a basic understanding of what you’re looking for in a school. If you wait until senior year to start visiting schools, it can become overwhelming as you feel overloaded by all the information each school gives you and all the various options out there. Do research on different types of colleges and the benefits of each and what you’d personally prefer. Do you want small class sizes? What subjects interest you the most and what schools have the best programs for those? What extracurriculars are there? Deciding what you’re looking for early on makes your college search a whole lot easier.

Connect with current students

While this piece of advice could fall under doing research on the school, it’s a little bit different. Don’t wait until your senior year to visit schools; take advantage of opportunities you have now. Consider staying overnight at a college you’re interested in so you can talk to current students and see what it’s like there. Check out student-run social media accounts and read about what current students are doing. Find blogs from current college students to learn more about college life in general. The best way to get a picture of what college is like is from connecting with actual college students.