Here are five things you can be doing to set yourself up for a beauty of a college application:

1. Getting the best grades in the toughest classes your school offers.

You probably know that your GPA is really important to colleges, but you may not know that colleges pay attention to how much you challenged yourself. I’m not saying you should definitely take six AP classes every year, but I am saying that colleges receive info detailing how many AP classes are offered at your school and how many of those you took. So think twice before dropping AP Psych.

Note: I’m often asked, “Should I take an AP class and get a B or take a regular or honors class and get an A?” My stock answer: “If you want to go to Stanford, take the AP class and get an A.” #nopressure

2. Signing up for test prep.

According to the 2012 NACAC State of College Admissions report, 89% of colleges require SAT/ACT scores, and 59% attribute considerable importance to them. You can choose to apply to test optional schools, but if you’re applying to a wide range of schools, I recommend taking your SAT or ACT once Junior year and once Senior year.