College Preparation Guide

Thinking you want to end attending college after you graduate from high school, or at least want to leave the option open? Getting accepted to college is certainly obtainable, but it’s not a walk in the park. The choices you make now, while in high school, will help determine whether what level of colleges are viable options for you when you graduate.
Top five things to keep in mind
1) Develop a relationship with your guidance counselor
The better the guidance counselor knows you the better he or she can tailor the advice he or she gives you
2) Stand out!
Maybe it’s your community service record or your winter camping hobby, round yourself out past just academics if you want your personality to shine through your college application and catch the eye of admissions officers.
3) Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines!
Keep track of all the stuff you have to work on in terms of applications, PSATs, SATs, scholarship applications and all the other deadlines that aren’t written under “homework” in your home room’s blackboard.
4) Research
You don’t have to write a senior thesis but the more you know about all the available options the happier you will likely be when you have finally made your decision. Use your guidance counselor, the internet, college fairs, and friends to gain as much information about your options as possible.
5) Keep the parents in the loop
Chance are your going to be hitting these guys up for some cash for application fees, SATs and all the other 1,001 expenses that come up in connection with getting into and going to college so let them in on your plans, it makes asking for money a lot easier.
Freshman Year

Check out your school's Guidance Office. Make an appointment with your guidance counselor and talk about classes for your high school career, tell him or her that you are on the college track.

Take the most rigorous courses you can. Don't be a slave to your books, but if you settle into a challenging routine now it will really show later.

Make sure to go to class, being tardy too many times can cause you to have to retake a class, even if you get an A in it!

Keep an eye on your grades; imagine that you came into school with a 4.0 GPA, and try to hold onto it.

Get involved, try out some sports teams, see what type of volunteer work you can do around your community; these things will help you with your resume and can be fun too.

Get a planner and get organized. Show your teachers and yourself that you can be well prepared and ready for what is ahead. Developing the habit of keeping track of your schedule now will come in handy later when you are trying to juggle things like appointments, interviews and work.

Surround yourself with people who want to succeed. Chances are, if your group of friends aspires to go to college, the more likely you will be influenced by their habits and will want to succeed right along side them.

Keep all of your old quizzes and tests. Learn from the mistakes you may have made and use them to study for midterms and exams. You will find that this is very often a better way of studying than reading from a text book.

Think about what you want to do for the summer after freshman year. With a little planning you can do a lot of cool things, be it a fun job or internship. Even join an international volunteer work camp through an international program like Volunteers for Peace.

Sophomore Year
It may be far off but now is the time to start thinking about some abstract criteria for college. Do you think you want to live in a city or a rural community? Would a large university or a small private institution fit your needs better?

Get some experience:

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about getting some real world experience to help you think about what you ultimately want to do.

Think about internships or community service. Even if it's unpaid, the experience could pay off in the end.

Extracurricular activities; don't kill yourself by signing up for 3 sports, student government and a club's treasurer's position, but by the same token find some things you enjoy and pursue them, they will be fun an look great later.

Keep those grades up; not trying to sound like your parents here but remember that GPA is cumulative.

Don't forget to pitch in around the house; helping your family now will show them that you might be ready to take on more responsibilities, a key part of making your high school years as worthwhile as possible.

Money matters: Start thinking about how to manage money, in a few years you will be out on your own, and that will be a lot easier if you have some experience.

Junior Year
 
Summer:

It's time to start thinking about colleges, and which ones might interest you. Start trying to make a mental list of some possibilities

Most students take the PSAT in October of junior year. Use the summer to learn about the PSAT in order to boost your scores. Try taking some free practice PSATs and grab an SAT book from the library.

Fall:

Meet with your guidance counselor.

Course schedule: Make sure you are taking challenging courses and that you're on track to fulfill all requirements for graduation and college admission.

Visiting colleges: It is likely that many admissions officers will be visiting your high school from all types of colleges. Find out when they will be around so you can take advantage of their first hand knowledge.

College search: Talk to your counselor about your college search, and make follow up appointments to further discuss your search later in the year.

Visit a college or two. High School teacher in-service days are ideal days to visit a college, students will be in classes and you won't miss any of your own.

Register for the PSAT/take the PSAT.

When you get the results back from your PSATs discuss them with your guidance counselor to develop a plan for studying for the SATs.

Study for your SATs: Start getting to know the format and types of questions, take a few practice tests, get a book to study from.

Winter:

Talk to your older former classmates that have gone off to college, and get as much info from them as possible. Ask questions such as: what do you wish you had known before you decided on a school, or what is your favorite part of you school; this can help you gain a lot of insight.

SATs: sign up for you first test and think about subject area SATs. These are required by many of the most selective colleges and are highly regarded even if not required by all colleges.

Most juniors take the SATs in April, May or June of their junior year and then again int eh fall of their senior year, this allows two opportunities to get your best score.

Continue studying for the SATs.

Use Spring Break Wisely:

Check out some colleges that you think might fit what you are looking for.

Take some time to discuss with your parents about how they envision your college career, remember they could have some good advice despite being your parents.

Spring:
Think about summer; don't let your summer be dull and unproductive; think about some of the great opportunities to get ahead and have a lot of fun.

Letters of recommendation; think about who could write a good letter of recommendation for you, and see if they will write it now; in the spring teachers aren't swamped with letter requests and can really spend some time on yours.

Senior Year:

Fall:

Recommendations: teachers are going to get swamped early in by requests for college recommendations, so try to get yours done as early as possible.

Check in with your guidance counselor.

Make sure you are on track to graduate and fulfill all requirements.

Find out what your schools procedure is to obtain your transcript and get it to prospective colleges.

Ask about college fairs, there are many that go on throughout the state and your guidance office will gave information on all of them.

Visit colleges; it's not long now until your applications will be dues, so go check out some schools and see if they are right for you before you take the time to fill out lengthy applications.

Research scholarships: no one is opposed to free money, so why not try to get some? There are hundreds of scholarships available locally and many nationwide also. Check in with your guidance office for some places to start your search.

Winter:

Prepare financial aid paperwork

Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This application is required by most colleges to determine your eligibility for many types of financial aid.

Log onto www.pin.ed.gov to get a personal identification number (pin) to use as an electronic signature on your FASFA applications, remember you ill need two, one for yourself and one for your parents.

Wrap up your applications: use winter break to write and polish u any college essays so you won't have to worry about them while school is in session.

Avoid senioritis: Remember even once you have been accepted, many colleges will look at your final senior grades and could even rescind their invitation if you don't continue on your previous academic track.

Spring:

Watch the letters roll in: compare financial aid packages and think about taking a follow up visit to schools you have been accepted to in order to find the best fit.

Write thank you letters; anyone who wrote you a recommendation letter should get a thank you note, it's the polite thing to do and shows respect for someone who's helped you get where you are today.