03/25/2013 at 09:10 AM EDT
She may have been runner-up on American Idol
, but Jessica Sanchez is stepping in to the main spotlight for the season finale of Glee
"I'm playing a student from a rival school who is supposed to be a legendary diva – a powerhouse singer," the season 11 Idol
contestant told PEOPLE last week after performing with Ne-Yo on the FOX reality show that made her famous.
Sanchez, 17, will film Glee
beginning in April and be featured in two episodes, including the finale.
"It's going to be a very busy month for me," Sanchez told reporters. "I'm very excited because I've never acted before. I really want to meet [Naya Rivera]. She's got that attitude and I love it."
In addition to taking acting classes in preparation, Sanchez has also been attending dance classes and scored major modeling jobs since coming in second place to Phillip Phillips last year.
"Right after Idol
, I was, like, 'I've got to become a totally different person. I can't just stand there and be shy and just sing,' " she said.
In addition to her stint on Glee
, Sanchez is preparing for the April 30 release of her debut album Me, You and the Music
and still finds time for boyfriend (and fellow season 11 contestant) DeAndre Brackensick.
"We have a balance," Sanchez says of her relationship with Brackensick, 18. "We understand each other's schedules so it is not so needy. It's very good."
Looking back at her life before Idol
, it is hard for Sanchez to see any similarities to the life she once led.
"I was home-schooled so I pretty much just sat at home and watched TV and play video games," Sanchez said of her childhood. "I was so lame and now I'm traveling the world. It's a surreal thing."