Where to Start?
Freshman & Sophomores:
Start considering what your interests are and thinking of some potential careers.
Begin researching and visiting colleges. It’s never too early to get an idea of which college you would like to attend.
Deeply pursue the extra-curricular activities that most interest you. Colleges like to see your commitment to a certain activity, but it is also important to take part in a number activities that show you’re a well rounded student (good grades, sports, clubs, internships, leadership experience, etc.)
Another way you can prepare for college early on is by taking challenging courses. Take classes that are a little out of your comfort zone, getting a B in an AP class is more impressive than getting an A in an Honors one.
Something else to look into is PSAT tests, these practice tests are a good way to prepare you for the big SAT test early on.
READ. Spending some time reading everyday can be of great use to you. Reading can help you to be a better writer ( which helps with an infinite amount of things such as college essays) and can be very helpful when it comes to the SAT’s.
Juniors & Seniors:
The first step when planning for college is figuring out what kinds of colleges you’re interested in attending. Fill out the questionnaire below to self-reflect on the different factors you’ll have to consider when researching colleges.
1) First and foremost, what do you want to get out of college. What do you want to learn and achieve?
2) The second question you should ask yourself is whether you would like to attend a public college, private college, start off at a community college.
Public College- Predominantly funded by the government, larger sizes, more students live off campus, higher sticker cost but offers less financial aid resources.
Private College- Independently funded, smaller that public colleges, more students live on campus, lower sticker cost the private colleges but offer less financial support.
Community College- Two year college, sometimes called a junior college. Provides affordable postsecondary education as a pathway to a four-year college.
3) Consider the Location. Are you interested in attending a college that's local, out of state, studying abroad, etc.? (Remember to consider the costs of travel when deciding how far away from home you’d like to go)
4) How big of a campus would you like to attend? Would you prefer a smaller school or a larger school?
5) What major are you most interested in? (If you are confident about what you would like to study look into some schools that have good programs for your potential career field. If you still are unsure of what career is right for you don’t worry there's still plenty of time to figure that out.)
6) How important is the school’s social life to you?
7) How important is it for you that the college you attend has good food and dorms?
8) Consider the cost of college. How much would you like or are willing to spend? (It’s a good idea to set a limit for yourself so that you don’t end up being unhappy with how money you spent on college)
After asking these questions conduct some research and create a ranking of how important each of these factors is to you.
What to Expect on From College Applications:
Be ready for lots of questions about who you are as a person and what makes you unique. Many college applications will ask about times when you have exercised leadership.
Steps to Successfully Complete Your College Applications:
The first step you should take when it comes to college applications, is narrowing down the list of schools you're applying to to no more than 8 schools. Try to limit the number of “reach” schools you apply to because applying to a big number of colleges that you don’t think you’ll get into, will diminish the quality of your applications, and lower the possibility of you getting into the colleges you applied to.
Write important deadlines in a calendar or planner. Before application deadlines start coming up, take some time to write the deadlines for each college you are applying to or thinking about applying to in a planner or calendar. You don’t wanna miss the opportunity to apply for a school because you forgot the application was due, or end up scrambling to finish your application the night before the deadline.
Before applying or making any major decisions about what college to attend, visit the campuses. Visiting schools is the best way to understand what you’re signing up and gives you a better idea of what the school is like.
Consider your talents, beliefs, and what you would be able to offer to colleges. What makes you unique? Tell them why they should accept you into their school and help them to understand what it is you’re all about.
Write yourself a resume. Organising all your accomplishments, community service hours, extra-curricular activities, so you don’t forget anything and can spend less time filling out each individual application. It also is helpful to create a resume so that you can give them to your teachers who are writing you recommendations.
When it comes to recommendation letters, be sure to ask your teachers well in advance if they would be willing to write you a letter or recommendation, and provide them with all the information they may need from you to do so. Provide your resume and a little bit of information about yourself so your teachers can more easily advocate for you and write a recommendation letter that is very unique to you. Your teachers may need you to inform them of your role in their class, in which case you would need to fill out an “interaction sheet”, that includes anecdotes that could remind them of specific occasions in which you showed your talent or citizenship in the classroom (ex: helping other students, acting as a leader, etc.) SEND YOUR TEACHERS THANK YOU NOTES AFTER THEY WRITE YOU A RECOMMENDATION LETTER. Be appreciative of the time your teachers are putting in after hours to write an essay about you, and make sure to show them your appreciation.
Take extra time on college essays. In many cases the essay portion of the application is the deciding factor in whether you or another student would be admitted. Know who you are! Colleges want to know you and your story, don’t be afraid to open up and express what you’re all about. Make sure in your college essays to highlight what you could bring to that specific college and some of your qualities that would make you a good addition to their campus. Spend a lot of time revising your essay and receiving feedback about your essay from others.
Interviews, although stressful are a great idea. Even if they aren’t required asking for an interview is a good way to connect with someone working in the admission office. Be sure to send a thank you note after your interview to the representative who conducted the interview.
Apply to colleges online and make copies of all your applications just in case something gets lost along the way.
The Decision Making Process:
ASK QUESTIONS. Keep researching, look at student testimonials, talk to students attending or who previously attended that college, find out about the services offered to students, etc.
Consider the cost and what kind of financial benefits each college offers or lacks. Compare how much money you’d be saving or spending depending on each college and ask yourself whether going to a certain college is worth the amount of money it would cost. A basic rule of thumb is, ask yourself if in X amount of years after college would you be okay with the amount of money you’d be spending on student loans, if not then attending that certain college might not be worth such a high cost.
Compare the different benefits or issues with each college you were accepted to. Are there any deal breakers or any reasons you think that a college isn’t a good fit for you.
Finally, make a decision :)