Preparing for College
Planning on going to college? If the answer is yes, then establishing a detailed college plan is a must. Whether you are starting next week or 10 years from now, College Spot has the information and the tools designed to help you prepare for your higher education. Most of the necessary tasks can be completed in your junior or senior years of high school, but College Spot recommends that you start planning as early as the eighth grade. Not only will this improve your chances of getting into the college of your choice, but it will also make applying that much easier.
Below is a general guideline of steps you should follow while preparing for college. The steps below will help you select colleges, apply to them online, and fund your college education.
1. Prepare For College Early
This advice may sound vague, but it is invaluable. Preparing early for your college education will help you position yourself to get into the school of your choice. College Spot recommends that you start as early as the eighth grade, but even if you are in your junior or senior year you can still choose, apply, and get accepted to the college that is best for you, if you plan carefully.
Regardless of the grade you are in now, there are some general notes to remember and rules to follow:
- Pay attention to deadlines and dates.
- Although they may not be required to graduate high school, most colleges require at least three, and often prefer four, years of studies in math, English, science, and social studies.
- In addition, most colleges require at least two years of the same foreign language.
- Grades are important, but the difficulty of your coursework can also be a significant factor in a college’s decision to admit you. In general, most colleges prefer students with average grades in tougher courses than students who opt for an easy “A”. Also, most high schools grade Advanced Placement courses on a 5-point scale rather than the 4-point scale used for other classes, essentially giving students a bonus point for tackling the extra difficulty (e.g., a “B” in an AP course is worth as much as an “A” in a non-AP course).
- College admissions officers will pay the closest attention to your GPA, class rank, college credit, AP courses, and scores on standardized tests.
- Participating in extracurricular activities is also a good idea while in high school. Speech and debate, band, sports, and drama are just a few of the school-related activities that require time and effort outside the classroom. Your participation will clearly show colleges that you have a willingness to cooperate with others and that you will put forth the effort needed to succeed.
- Colleges view computer science courses and courses that require students to use computers in research and project preparation as a good indicator of future performance.
2. Plan A Career
Choosing a career and a corresponding major will help you decide which colleges are right for you. If you have not decided on a career, then think about what your interests are and what you would like to learn about and find a college that offers a variety of classes that focus on them.
3. Find A College
There are a couple ways to find a college on this website:
- Use the College Spot School Directory
- Use the College Search tool. Search by name, location, or major.
Get as much information online about the school of your choice as you can. Some schools have online admissions applications for you to complete.
High School Seniors should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on or after January 1st. To learn about ways to get money for college (scholarships, grants, federal student loans, private student loans, etc.) browse our website for more information.
4. Take The Necessary Tests
Most U.S. colleges require that students submit scores from standardized college placement tests as part of their application packages. The most commonly accepted tests are the SAT Reasoning, SAT Subject, and ACT Tests. Talk to your high school counselor or to the admissions office(s) at the college(s) to which you will apply for information about which you should take.
5. Visit Your College Choices
Once you have narrowed your selection, arrange to visit the campuses in person. This is an important step in the decision process. Be sure that the college you are touring is the place you want to spend the next few years of your life while you prepare for your career.
6. Research Your Payment Options
Be sure to look into financial aid options before you apply to a particular college or university. Free-money options such as Scholarships and Grants are a great place to start. Federal Student Loans and Private Student Loans can be used to cover the rest of your financial aid needs.
Apply online. If you are currently a high school senior, you should complete the FAFSA as early as possible, but no earlier than January 1st.