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Get Ahead of the Game – Early High School Preparation for College

The best time to prepare for college is during your high school years. In fact, a college that accepts you, a scholarship that awards you, and a company that employs you, will all take into account what you did during high school. For example, colleges mostly look at your grades; most scholarships seek to award those with extracurricular activities, community involvement, and leadership skills; while employers will take all the above into consideration.

Therefore, the sooner you start, the better your chances are of getting into the college of your choice, with a nice scholarship award, and then landing your dream job.

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Of course, getting good grades is usually considered the most important part of going to school. However, in high school, it is also important to show your involvement in other activities where, not only will you make new friends, but you will have a lot of fun too.

Things to consider:

  • Volunteering
  • Fundraising
  • Tutoring
  • Participating in Community Programs
  • Joining School Groups and Clubs
  • Taking Part in Extracurricular Activities

For more a comprehensive list of options and even more ideas, check out the following links:

Consider Extracurricular Activities

During your time at school, you will have plenty of opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities such as music, sports, drama, community service programs, volunteer work, and personal development. Being involved in such activities will benefit you greatly and can especially make your college and scholarship applications stand out from the rest. The following are some of the many benefits extracurricular activity involvement can provide:

  • Social Opportunities
  • Stand-Out College Applications
  • Great-looking Resume
  • Making New Friends
  • Gives you a productive break from study

Some possibilities to consider:

  • Become a student rep or a prefect
  • Join a sports team
  • Community service & volunteer work
  • Peer mentoring
  • Performing arts, music, & drama
  • Student government
  • Academic Teams and clubs
  • The debate team
  • Internships
  • Culture clubs
  • The student newspaper
  • A part-time job

For more tips on how to get your college applications noticed with extra-curriculars, check out the following links:

College Courses

Did you know that you can take college courses while in high school? This has many advantages for you; it gives you a chance to earn extra credits that can be applied to college, you get to experience what real college classes and materials are like, it adds value to your course record and transcripts indicating you are driven in your studies, it may even exempt you from college introductory courses, and more. There is also an option called CLEP testing that can help you obtain college credits based on what you already know.

You also have options for taking college courses during high school; you can either attend a community college after school or add an AP (Advanced Placement) program into your regular class schedule. AP courses were created by the College Board specifically to give students in high school an introduction to college material.

For more a more in-depth take on the subject, check out the following links:

Take a College Course or Two

One advantage that high school students have today that was not available in the past is the ability to take classes online. It is so convenient to be able to study from anywhere, at your own pace and get ahead. Moreover, in the U.S., there are numerous college courses provided by well-regarded postsecondary institutions.

Take one class and get twice the credit with dual enrollment, also known as “joint enrollment,” or “concurrent enrollment”. These are courses offered in partnerships between some college institutions and area high schools that students can take to earn college credit, which also goes toward high school requirements.

To see some comprehensive lists of available high school and college classes, check out the following links:

Maintain The Highest Possible GPA

Your grade point average (GPA) is a mathematical calculation of your final high school grades that take into account grading policies, high school settings, and the classes you took. Unfortunately, each high school has their own way of determining a student’s GPA, which can make it hard to compare students by this metric. Therefore, the college’s factor in more data as well such as your standardized test scores, class rank, and weighted classes you took. The average standard GPA is 3.0.

For more detailed information on GPAs, check out the following links…

Keep Your Grades High

Everyone likes playing games. Well, life can also be considered a game, only the consequences of losing are real issues you will have to face if you don’t step it up. For this reason, you should always work on doing better than you previously did. Just because you weren’t the best student in the past, doesn’t mean you can’t improve later. The key is, knowing what you’ve got to do and doing it “now”, even if you don’t feel like it, because you may never feel like it and therefore, won’t ever get anything done.

For inspiration and more tips, check out the following links:

Early Scholarship Applications

Contrary to popular belief, scholarships are not only offered to students who exceed academic standards, but there are also awards available to almost anyone such as students who:

  • Are in financial need
  • Descend from specific cultures
  • Belong to certain groups
  • Are male or female
  • Have family that serves in the military
  • And more

You can begin applying for scholarships while you are a freshman in high school and are encouraged to continue your search throughout your high school years. It is advisable that you complete as many applications as possible to get awards that will help get you through college.

There are thousands of grants waiting to be given away, some places to look for scholarships are:

  • Schools and Colleges
  • Employers for your major (if you have chosen one)
  • Individuals
  • Private Companies
  • Non-profits
  • Religious Groups
  • Professional and Social Organizations
  • Local Businesses
  • And more

For more assistance in where to find funds and a searchable list, check out the following links:

FAFSA and Scholarships

One of the most important things to do is apply for student financial aid (FAFSA) to help pay for college. FAFSA is a free application you can fill out online to help pay for college. School’s use it to put together a federal student aid packet for you. This packet may contain federal student loans, work study, school and state financial aid, grants for college, and more. Applications can be submitted starting October first. To maximize your financial aid, you should apply as early as possible since it is given at a first-come-first-served basis.

Take Tests and Practice Tests

The standardized curriculum-based achievement tests, SAT & ACT, measure what you learned in high school and are important factors for colleges to evaluate prospective candidates. Therefore, to ensure that you will do well, you should take a pretest early in your junior year. The pre-ACT (PLAN) and the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) are practice tests that are available several times each year. You can take these tests numerous times to improve your test scores.

For more tips and strategies, check out the following links:

ACT and SAT Tests

Also known as NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), The PSAT (preliminary SAT) is basically a practice version of the SAT that can add a plus to your college application as well as possibly earn you a scholarship, as some seek to award students who do well on this exam.

The ACT (American College Test) entrance exam is what most colleges and universities use to make admission decisions. This multiple-choice test is administered by ACT to provide a common data point for colleges to be able to compare students while also measuring their college preparedness. There are four areas that it covers: mathematics, reading, science reasoning, and English.

Starting Your Preparations – Your Senior Year

By, your senior year you should have already taken the SAT and ACT tests. Check your scores and if you think you can do better, remember that you likely have the option to take them again. In addition, you should have applied for some scholarship programs as well. As a senior you will have a lot more to do like taking tests, gathering letters of recommendation, and filling out and submitting admissions applications. Create a checklist and start checking things off.

For an in depth look at your senior year and beyond, check out the following links:

Make a List of College Options

When you first start looking into different colleges, it is a good idea to make a list of all the best colleges you are considering and then list all the things that you would like the college you attend to have, such as: certain courses, a good job placement program, knowledgeable teachers, helpful academic advisors, course and extracurricular activities that interest you, a high graduation rate, good reviews, hands-on training, scholarships available to you, financial aid, accreditation by a reputable association, etc.

For more tips and resources, check out the following links:

Choose Your Top 3+ Schools

Because it can be quite costly to apply for multiple colleges, it is recommended that you choose 3 that interest you the most. To select which you favor most, it will take some research. This is where campus tours can come in handy. You’ll also want to check for things like student graduation rates, reviews, and the job placement program they offer. Another thing you should look at is the courses they offer, checking to see if they have opportunities that might interest you, or, if you know what degree you’re hoping to get, make sure that they have that specific degree available and check if they have any special accreditation associated with it.

For more tips on choosing the right college, check out the following links:

Tour Local Undergraduate Programs

If you decide to stay at the college campus, then you might want to personally visit the school to make sure it meets or exceeds your expectations. Some of the things to look for is the cleanliness and comfort level of the classrooms, the dorms, cafeteria, and the restrooms. You’ll be spending a lot of time here. Next, meet the teachers and decide whether they seem like the type of people who care about your education. This is even more important if you know what your major is going to be; you could be meeting your college mentor. In addition, you can talk to some of the students that attend the college and have some questions ready to ask. You also should decide and plan for how much education you are going to need and want for your career path (associate, bachelors, masters or PhD).

College Application Fee Waivers

Although there are some colleges that do not charge an application fee, most of them charge around $35 and the more exclusive schools, such as Stanford and Columbia, can charge close to $80. According to “US News and World Report”, in 2016 the average cost of a college application fee was $43.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is a fee waiver that waives the application fee for up to 4 college applications. To qualify you must meet the ACT or SAT testing fee waiver requirements.

For more information on application fees, check out the following links:

Send Out Applications

The best time to start applying for colleges is early October. Once you have selected the schools you are interested in attending, contact them to request applications, and then spend some time on putting together an impressive package. Your application package should include the following 5 things:

  • High School Transcript

  • Application Fee

  • College Admissions Tests

  • Letters of Recommendation

  • Application Essay

Another important thing to do is use an application worksheet to keep track of the colleges you apply for and make copies of everything before sending it out.

Getting Started as a College Freshman

Starting college as a freshman is a very exciting time for students, especially for those staying at the campus, who haven’t really been away from home much. There are some important things to remember to do as a freshman. First, get to know your academic advisor, remember they are there for you. Second, get yourself a decent planner where you can keep all your important notes and class schedules. When a test comes up, try to spend at least three days studying; do not try to study only the day before (We all know it happens more often than it should). There’s a time for work and a time for play, make sure you spend equal amounts of time on both, you don’t want to get burnt out your first year.

Meet with Your Academic Advisor

The Academic Advisor is there to provide you with information to ensure you have a successful career. Most colleges will only assign you an academic advisor after you have chosen a major. Your academic advisor will support you throughout your studies while helping you explore your options that align with your interests and develop plans of study to reach your goals. They are there to answer any questions you may have, to help you plan schedules, assist with the registration process, and more. In addition, they may also refer you to other offices for assistance with personal, academic, financial, or career counseling.

For more information on making the most of your time with your academic advisor, check out the following links:

Declare a Major (if you’re ready)

Choosing a major is important for many reasons, but mainly because it will help you avoid taking unnecessary classes that could be detrimental to your education, since it will take up time that you can spend on earning useful credits. You will have to pay for the unused excess credit fees, and it could result in you not graduating on time. Choosing a major also helps to get accurate advising and you can apply for scholarship programs that are available for the major you choose. Therefore, the sooner you know what educational major you want, the better it is to plan your career path.

For more information on declaring your major, check out the following links:

Extra Scholarships

Stay on the lookout for more scholarships to apply for. Some may only be offered to college sophomores, juniors, seniors, and students who already know what they want to major in. Keep in mind that there are thousands of scholarship funds made available to students who plan on attending a specific school, whose parents work for certain organizations, or for those who have specific interests. If you continue to apply for scholarship programs, starting in high school and continuing through college, you’re likely to get one sooner or later and every bit helps towards your college tuition and expenses.

For more resources on scholarships, check out the following links:

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