Guest Author - Dominique Jordan
If you think that getting ready for college is something that you start to think about when you turn eighteen or when you hit your senior year, you’re missing out. There are a lot of great ways you could be getting ready right now. Colleges (especially really good colleges) are sometimes incredibly selective about the students they choose to admit. They look at every academic thing you’ve done for the past four years in high school, including grades and extracurricular activities. They also look at your achievements to determine the amount of financial aid and scholarships they’re going to award you.
Below are some ideas on how you can prepare for college, no matter what grade you’re in.
Start thinking about college only after you feel comfortable in the high school scene – or as comfortable as you can be (Is anyone ever really totally comfortable in high school? I doubt it.). Once you have that down, start thinking about college. What do you find most exciting about college? Since most people get degrees in order to acquire certain jobs according to their interests, look at your interests. How do you want to spend 40 hours per week for the better part of your life? What really excites you?
If you’re having a hard time with this, set aside some time to talk to a guidance counselor. And don’t feel like you have to get it all figured out in your freshmen year, or even in high school at all. But it is a good time to start seriously thinking about it. Then, start looking at the activities you are doing. Colleges want to admit students who are really active in extracurricular activities such as volunteering, sports, arts, and other things.
But don’t over schedule either. Colleges want to make sure that you have good time management skills because that will be important once you have the freedom to adhere to a college schedule.
Continue to think about what your interests are and start trying things out. You can follow your interests into a lot of different activities. Just make sure to do things outside of school while maintaining good grades. Think about taking some AP (Advanced Placement) courses. Advanced Placement courses are offered to students who wish to know what classes are like at the college-level. If you decide to take any of these classes, then you should keep working on those time management skills!
While still looking at your interests, doing activities, and working on time management as explained in Freshman and Sophomore year, now you might want to start looking at colleges. Do you have any in mind? Do you want to study far away or stay closer to home? Did your parents or grandparents go to a college that you think you would like? (Often children of alumni can get a special break on tuition). Do some Google searches and check things out. You will have to start writing applications in your Senior year. You may also need to start taking standardized tests such as the PSAT this year. Ask your guidance department for more information.
Now is the time to really get started on that application. Fall semester of Senior year is the best time. One thing many students don’t realize is that there are application fees of at least $50 per application. So, unless you or your parents can spend a lot of money on just applications, pick your very favorite colleges to apply. Work closely with those in your guidance department. They often offer workshops on filling out college applications and writing awesome application essays. Also, be sure to get all the testing that you will need for your particular colleges – SATs (Scholastic Assessment Tests) and MATs (Miller Analogies Tests) are the most common.
But, above all, don’t stress too much. Getting into college is important but not enough to make yourself sick over.