Ten Tips to Prepare for College
It’s not to early to be thinking about…
- Utilize AP courses to your advantage but don’t let AP pursuits come at a cost to your grand point average (GPA).
- Look for mentors in a field that you can see yourself doing, it helps you start making learning how to network while getting more comfortable at approaching adults that you admire.
- Volunteer in your area of passion or something that isn’t related to academia. This shows how well rounded you are and colleges will be looking for that type of individual who stands out in their hours clocked after school.
- GPA needs to stay up, in 12th grade there’s often this feeling of “coasting” or “senior-itis” but the truth is that if you let your grades slip during the last few years, your GPA will suffer in the end.
- Participate in clubs and school activities. This could mean joining the student council or asking your student council members about how you can get more involved.
- Do community service related projects or unique assignments that your teachers offer. If you don’t know where to begin always ask your teachers and they can guide you appropriately.
- Internships that are offered over summer break can be give you a huge advantage on your college applications as well as gaining useful skills for life.
- Develop strong relationships with at least one of your teachers, they will be the ones who write a recommendation letter for you to get into college so it’s good to have at least one teacher that you can feel closely aligned with.
- Start thinking about all of this in 9th grade. It’s not too soon to be considering these tips. Be sure you’re working with your college counselor who will keep you on track!
- Look below to find more specifics tips from our college counselor.
Freshmen preparing for college should plan to:
- Take challenging classes in core academic courses.
- Work with their school counselors to create a yearly schedule to meet graduation and college admissions requirements.
- Talk to an advisor or school counselor about taking Advanced Placement®* and honors courses.
- Identify interests and potential career fields through online resources, like this interest profiler, and by attending career fairs and other events.
- Get involved with community-based and leadership-oriented activities that best reflect their interests.
- Browse the College Scorecard to see what types of schools interest them.
- As they find and review them, bookmark resources for college planning.
- Start a running list of accomplishments, awards, and recognition’s to use when completing college applications and writing resumes.
Sophomores preparing for college should:
- Consider taking a practice test to prepare for the PSAT.
- Attend college and career information events.
- Start learning about funding for college, including scholarships, grants, loans, work-study jobs, etc.
- Consider the types of careers that fit their interests and what college majors they require.
- Reach out to school counselors and/or mentors to discuss occupational interests and college requirements.
In the Fall semester, Juniors should:
- Take the PSAT if they have not already. Students should generally take the test no later than fall semester of the eleventh grade to qualify for National Merit scholarships and programs.
- Attend in-person or online college fairs.
- Explore careers and their earning potentials in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
In the Spring semester, Juniors need to:
- Register for college admission exams—SAT, the SAT Subject Tests, and the ACT—and take practice tests. College admissions professionals recommend students have at least one standardized score before the end of their junior year.
- Research how to pay for college and what federal student aid may be available to you.
- Identify scholarship opportunities to pursue; note deadlines on calendar.
- Contact colleges to request information and applications.
During the Summer, rising Seniors should:
- Plan college visits.
- Narrow down the colleges under consideration.
- Make decisions required by colleges’ early-decision or early-action programs.
- Complete the Federal Student Aid Estimator.
In the Fall semester, Seniors will need to:
- Register for and take (or retake) the SAT and/or ACT, if not already done.
- Complete and submit college applications prior to deadlines.
- Request transcripts and letters of recommendation at least 30 days before they are due.
- Work with parents to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA® form). Before each year of college, you’ll need to apply for federal grants, work-study, and loans with the FAFSA.
- Complete and submit scholarship applications prior to deadlines.
- Meet with a counselor to verify that they’ll meet graduation requirements on schedule.
During the Winter months, Seniors should:
- Review and make any necessary changes/corrections to their Student Aid Report.
- Finish submitting scholarship applications.
In the Spring semester, Seniors will need to:
- Visit colleges on their “short list.”
- Consider college acceptances; compare financial aid packages offered.
- Call college financial aid representatives with questions.
- Decide on the college to attend (typically by May 1) and contact its offices.
- Make informed decisions about student loans.
While some seniors think they’ve “made it” and can coast in their last year of high school, students preparing for college should recognize that college admissions officers will expect to see they’ve worked hard to keep grades up and stayed involved in school and community activities. Parents may reassure aspiring college students that they can still enjoy life and time with friends while remaining focused on larger goals.
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