How to Build an App in High School

Padya Paramita

How to Build an App in High School

It has become an unwritten rule that aspiring computer science majors must first build an app in high school before even applying to college. Even if you’re not a CS student, you can still learn how to build an app in high school in order to further a particular area of interest or cause you are passionate about. For both technically-inclined CS students and non technical students alike, building an app in high school is a great way to convey to admissions officers the abilities and experiences that you can bring to campus.

Even if you have the coding skills, it can be hard to figure out what you want your app to be about, and how you can get it out there for people to download. To guide you through the steps of how to build an app in high school, I’ve provided some ideas for brainstorming, gone over the steps of getting your app published, and finally, elaborated on how you can feature your app in order to impress admissions officers and stand out from your competition.

Conceptualizing Your App

Lots of students learn how to build an app in high school, but what’s important is making sure that the program you create is unique to you and your interests. There are already so many apps that exist for almost every possible function – how will your app be different? Below are some questions to consider as you think about your app:

  • What topic are you most passionate about?
  • What are some of the most pressing issues in your community?
  • How can you resolve an issue in your neighborhood or school?
  • What is your intended college major?
  • What are your favorite subjects in school?
  • Which extracurricular activity matters the most to you?
  • If something could make life easier for you what would it be?
  • What kind of app would help your family or loved ones?
  • Do you want your app to be for entertainment or educational purposes?
  • Who do you want your audience to be?
  • What features would you want the app to have?
  • What are some of your biggest goals?

Once you’ve thought about some of these factors, you’ve hopefully pinpointed a topic that has both a purpose and need in either your local community, field of interest, or the world. Do as much research as needed to make it informational and helpful. From an admissions perspective, remember that colleges want to get to know you better, so think about how the app will show your interest towards a particular issue.

Building Your App

Creating an app takes an average of three to nine months, depending on the complexity of your project, so start with plenty of time in hand. After you’ve decided what your app will be about and how it will run, you have to think about whether you want to learn how to build an app in high school for iOS or Android or both. To develop an iOS app from scratch, you need a Mac computer (macOS 10.11.5 or later) running the latest version of Xcode. Xcode contains all the necessary features for designing, developing, and debugging an app for iPhones. 

To create an Android app from scratch, you have to go to the Play Console option of the Google Play store on your phone. This will lead you to the “create application” interface. Once you select a default language and add a title for your app, type the name of your app as you want it to appear on Google Play and then go from there. 

If you aren’t an expert coder, you can download different developers such as: 

All of these are user friendly and can get you started on the process of how to build an app in high school without needing to learn a programming language. This is easiest as a beginner.

If you’re interested in programming, you might prefer to build the app from scratch — and this will look more impressive on your college application. Here are some useful tutorials that can help get you more familiar with the coding technicalities:

Testing Your App

Test your app thoroughly for performance issues before preparing it for publication. Some things to test for include usability, functionality, and performance. Go over the following steps to make sure everything is running smoothly

  • Start your app and navigate it as any of your users would and go through all components of your app.
  • Try out different menu items.
  • Click different screens, settings, and dialogues.
  • If you’ve got a home button, press it from each page to see if it works.
  • Test the back button.
  • Re-launch your app from your home page to check if it works.
  • Rotate your device, to check if your app works on both portrait and landscape.
  • See what happens when your app is run at the highest or lowest extreme of its intended operation
  • Trigger notifications to see that they are functioning properly.

Publishing Your App

Once you’ve got past the technical side of your quest to discover how to build an app in high school, it’s time to publish it! Many expert builders have trouble with this part — so it’s understandable if you feel stressed as a high schooler. You want to upload your program to the App Store on iPhones or Google Play on Android phones.

Uploading Your App to the App Store

It’s extremely important to make sure that your app follows Apple’s App Store guidelines. One of the most common reasons that programmers get their creations rejected is because they haven’t read the guidelines carefully. This includes making sure your app doesn’t promote bigotry or harmful language, spread false information, target any particular minority groups, or contain inappropriate images. Once you’ve made sure that your app has no bugs, register for an Apple Developer program account. This grants you access to beta software, advanced app capabilities, extensive beta testing tools, and app analytics. 

You also need to create an app record in iTunes Connect. When an app is sold or downloaded in the App Store, the store displays necessary information about the app, including its name, description, an icon, screenshots, and contact information for you, the developer. To provide that information, when you sign into iTunes Connect, you must create a record for the app, and complete some forms. Once you’ve completed these steps, you’re ready to upload your app. Submit to the app store for official review, and once it’s been cleared (this can take from a week to a month), you’re ready for release!

Uploading Your App to Google Play

Once you’ve figured out the technicalities of building your app for Android, it’s time to publish it! First, you need to prepare your store listing, which includes the details that will show up to customers on your app’s listing on Google Play. Start with your app’s title and description. Think about the user experience — use the right keywords that can help people easily find it. Next, under graphic assets, you can add screenshots, images, videos, promotional graphics, and icons that will show up on the store to convey your app’s use and functionality. Create your app's store listing, take the content rating questionnaire, and set up pricing and distribution. 

The most important part of building an Android app is setting up an Android Package Kit, or APK. This is the file format used by the Android operating system to distribute and install apps. Before you can upload your APK, you need to specify the type of release you want for your app: you can choose between a closed test, where you only distribute the app among your team and selected reviewers or an open test, where you run a test with a large group and surface your app's test version on Google Play. If you run an open test, anyone can join your testing program and submit private feedback to you. Once you’ve picked an option, you’ll be able to upload your APK. Review that you’ve added everything, and your app should be all set for publication!

Publicizing Your App

Once your app is ready to download, it’s time to let everyone know! Take advantage of social media and ask for help from your various friends, family members, and community networks to spread the word. Some of the best ways to do so are:

  • Facebook - Facebook is arguably the biggest social media platform in the world and it’s the one where you’re likely to have the most access to different kinds of people. You should definitely make a post that lets your family and friends know about your app - and make the post public so that they can share with their friend list. You can also take advantage of Facebook groups, which makes generating topic-centered promotions much easier than on other platforms. Find groups that discuss topics relevant to your app, and outline in a post what you’re hoping to achieve with your program and how you’ll be different. 
  • Twitter - Winning over Twitter can be tougher than Facebook. Make sure you use the right keywords and hashtags to appeal to users who might be in search of an app like yours!
  • Instagram - Each industry comes with a series of hashtags that are probably necessary if you want to make your mark on the applicable Instagram scene, such as #gaming or #communityorganizing. Take advantage of relevant hashtags as you work on promoting your app. 
  • Networking - Finding other developers, especially more well-renowned ones, who can help promote your app can be wonderful. Or, you can meet content creators such as bloggers and influencers with a big following who work in a field similar to the one you’re trying to reach to get the word out. Take advantage of these contacts so that more people get to hear about what you’re doing!



        If your program has a target audience or a particular group of people that it supports, such as pre-med students or basketball players, make sure you reach out to relevant associations. The more people know about the app, the more downloads you’ll have. People will install it, leave reviews, and you’ll be able to gain feedback to improve, as well as know whether you’re actually accomplishing what you hoped the app would do. 

        Ratings and reviews are important because they help you understand the outreach your app has, as well as whether or not it’s achieving its targets. Plus, they are essential for marketing your app and compel others to download it.

        How to Write About Your Program on Your College Applications

        If you’ve successfully conquered the task of building an app in high school, you’ll undoubtedly want to feature it as a part of your activities list on your college application. As you write the description, some things you want to highlight include mentioning how users have rated it, how it may have helped your community, and of course, quantifiable data such as the number of downloads, the range of countries users come from, and a count of positive reviews you’ve received. Many students have their own apps — your numbers need to be impressive in the context of that pool in order  to have an impact!

        Your app might go hand-in-hand with your biggest interests and play a bigger role outside the activities list — starring as part of your personal statement. One of our students is a competitive cyclist, for instance, and he wrote his Common App essay not only about his passion for this hobby, but also how he dove deeper into his love for cycling by creating an app that would help his fellow bikers get the perfect bike dimensions to fit with their height and weight. If you believe the app you create has a deeper impact that you want to further highlight, talk about it in your personal statement or supplemental essays!

        While learning how to build an app in high school can sound like an intimidating concept, it is far from impossible. The most important factor to remember is that it should address a topic that you’re passionate about and demonstrate your interest in the field. If you dedicate yourself to the process, you may end up with a highly successful program that helps or educates hundreds of people. And you’ll impress college admissions officers as well. Happy building!

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