That first day back to school after the winter holidays can be challenging. High school students, accustomed to sleeping in late and eating rich meals over the past two weeks, have to shake off the cobwebs and hit the books again. Moreover, they face a new kind of prospect: post-secondary education.

Until this point, college and university were just hazy concepts somewhere in the distance. Now, it’s a clear and imminent reality. With due dates for applications fast approaching (or already in the rear view), students bound for post-secondary have to double down on their efforts to snag the right school.

This article is here to help. If you’re a senior on a mad dash to finish your application – or a junior getting a headstart –here are three ways to make your college application more attractive.

Boost Those Grades with Upgrade Courses

College admissions officers look at several factors, like extracurriculars, interests, upbringing, letters of recommendation, etc. But one factor still holds precedence over the rest: grades.

In particular, admissions officers look for high grades in challenging courses (like grade 12 university-level science courses). They want to know that you can perform under rigorous academic expectations. If your transcript looks spotty, now is the time to do something about it. Even if you have to postpone your applications until the winter semester, it’s worth it to get your top pick of schools.

Consider taking “upgrade courses” from a ministry inspected Ontario online high school. Ministry inspected schools are licensed to give credits, and their upgrade courses are flexible enough to fit into your regular school routine. Essentially, upgrade courses are shortened versions of courses you already took; at the end, the higher of your two grades will appear on your transcript.

Put Your Spare Time to Effective Use

After enrolling in online upgrade courses, you can use the remainder of your spare time to beef up the ancillary facets of your application. Here are a few ways to put your free time to effective use:

  • Volunteer: Universities and colleges love to see a charitable candidate.
  • Participate in Studies: Especially if you’re STEM-bound, participating in research studies outside of school looks great on an application.
  • Exercise Your Entrepreneurial Side: Students with bachelor’s degrees in business or economics should consider putting their mettle to the test with some small-scale entrepreneurial endeavours.
  • Submit Writing to Journals: And if you’re bound for the English department, consider submitting your writing or cultural criticism to local journals and publications.

Other notable activities that look good on a college application are team sports, weekend jobs and social justice community organizing.

Leave Yourself Time and Energy to Stick the Landing in Regular Courses

Finally, amid the scramble to improve past grades and elevate your extracurriculars, don’t forget about your regular semester courses. Colleges and universities incorporate your last semester’s midterm and final grades in their evaluations.

If you want to round out your high school career with a little more flexibility, consider taking all your courses at an accredited online school. Online courses are self-paced, leaving ample time and wiggle room to complete upgrade courses and extracurricular activities.

Don’t let the last semester of high school throw you off your stride. Follow the straightforward tips about to end strong with an enviable college application.