College PlanningCollege Planning for the High School Student

When the time comes to plan for college it can seem like you don't know where to get started. It can be overwhelming to undertake 2-4 years worth of work in a day so it helps to simplify the process and create a step-by-step process to plan for college. College planning involves research, creating potential college lists, picking the right classes and knowing which forms to fill out...and submit them on time. Planning for college is made easier by breaking up your to-do lists into each of your four years of high-school. Freshman Year College Planning during your Freshman year may seem unnecessary but it is wise to get started early. Here is a list of items to think about or accomplish:

  • Consider taking placement exams with your parents and school counselor
  • Think about joining extracurricular activities
  • Research college costs and/or start saving for college
  • Meet with your guidance counselor once or twice a year

Sophomore Year College Planning during your Sophomore becomes more important. It is time to start preparing for college admissions exams and think about potential careers. Here is a list of items to think about or accomplish:

  • Take a practice PSAT. Taking the test as a sophomore will help prepare you for the real thing next year and allows you to start getting direct mail from colleges.
  • Start getting ready for the ACT and consider taking SAT Subject Tests.
  • Stay on track with your courses. Now is not a good time to get behind and suffer from poor grades.
  • Begin learning about the college admissions process. Get familiar with college entrance requirements, the guidance counselor, our great college admissions blogs and speak with one of our consultants.
  • Take on new roles such as leadership positions in the activities you like best or become involved in community service and other volunteer activities.
  • Developing your reading skills will help prepare you for the SAT and ACT. Read as many books as you can and read the newspaper to learn about current affairs.
  • Practice your writing.You’ll need good writing skills for college admission tests and for almost any undergraduate course of study.
  • Contact colleges and universities that interest you. Visit their websites and find out what programs are available and what area of the state or country you would prefer to attend.

Junior Year College Planning during your Junior year is extremely important. This is the time you begin taking the important tests, increase your activity level with extracurriculars, apply to colleges and even go visiting. Here is a list of items to think about or accomplish:

  • Make your list of prospective colleges. Your list of colleges should include schools that meet your most important criteria (such as cost, location, class size, majors, etc.).
  • Take the PSAT. Taking the test qualifies you for the National Merit Scholarship program, which means you could earn money for college. In addition, it’s a good way to practice for the SAT.
  • Evaluate your post-high school ambitions. Decide whether you want a full-time job, more education or training (such as vocational school, career college, or two-year or four-year college), or a military career.
  • Gather as much college information as you can. Go to college fairs, college nights, and speak with college representatives who visit your high school; use an online college finder and search top college lists. You can even College Transitions to get matched to prospective colleges.
  • Create your testing calendar. Figure out when you’ll be taking important tests like the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP exams, and mark the dates on your calendar. You’ll want to have plenty of time to prepare.
  • Stay involved, organize college lists, and prepare for standardized tests
  • Begin narrowing down your college choices. Make sure you have all the information you need about the colleges you’re interested in and start organizing it!
  • Learn more about financial aid. Examine your family’s financial resources and gather information about financial aid from the schools you’re interested in.
  • Search for scholarships. There are hundreds and thousands of scholarships available that can lessen the burden of college tuition. Begin looking online and through your counselor to find the right ones to apply for.
  • Contact your recommendation writers. Find reputable teachers, mentors and community leaders who can speak highly of you in a recommendation letter.
  • Apply for a summer job or internship. Summer jobs look great on transcripts and help prepare you for college, the real world and the idea you may have to work part-time during college.

Senior Year College Planning during your Senior year is necessary. This is the time you need to decide on the college of your dreams, finish your academic career in high school strong and complete enrollment paperwork. Here is a list of items to think about or accomplish:

  • Visit with your school counselor to make sure you are on track to graduate and fulfill college admission requirements
  • Consider taking courses at a local university or community college
  • Keep working hard all year; second semester grades can affect scholarship eligibility
  • Ask for personal references from teachers, school counselors, or employers early in the year or at least two weeks before application deadlines.
  • Visit with admissions counselors who come to your high school
  • Begin your college essay(s)
  • Apply for admission at the colleges you've chosen
  • Find out if you qualify for scholarships at each college you have applied to
  • Start the financial aid application process
  • If you need it, get help completing the FAFSA
  • Ask your guidance office in January to send first semester transcripts to schools where you applied. In May, they will need to send final transcripts to the college you will attend.
  • Visit colleges that have invited you to enroll
  • Decide which college to attend, and notify the school of your decision. Also notify the schools you will not attend.
  • Keep track of and observe deadlines for sending in all required fees and paperwork
  • Continue to look for scholarship opportunities
  • Keep track of important financial aid and scholarship deadlines
  • Sign and send in a promissory note if you are borrowing money
  • Notify your college about any outside scholarships you received

College planning is not easy, or in most cases fun, but with these helpful hints and schedules you should be prepared to attend a college that fits your needs and makes you a happily employed adult upon graduating. For more information on college planning, fill out our free college planning consultation form now.


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