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Planning Ahead

Planning for College

You know you want to leave your mark on the world, and you know that a college degree is a vital step towards that goal, but now what? There are hundreds of universities and thousands of degree choices. How do you find the ones that are right for you? And once you find your perfect program how do you pay for it? Our quick tips can help you make sense of the college process.


9th Grade

Nothing may seem farther away than college right now, but it will sneak up faster than you think. Everything might seem overwhelming, but these tips will help you get a good start on the road to college. Get involved! Explore the extracurricular activities offered at your high school. Try several to find out which ones excite you the most. Begin to create a portfolio that showcases all of the hard work you are going to do throughout high school including: grade reports, honors, volunteer service, clubs and activities, jobs etc. Colleges will want to know all of this information and it will make the application process much easier if everything is together. Update this portfolio each semester. Find a summer camp, workshop, or volunteer opportunity that fits your interests.


10th Grade

This year is all about keeping up the good academic work and building on your extracurriculars from last year. Take your extracurriculars one step further this year by taking on a leadership role in an organization or leading a project. Ask your school counselor about taking the PSAT or ACT PLAN tests this year. The PSAT does not count towards the National Merit Scholarship until your junior year, but taking it early can be good practice. Continue volunteering and participating in camps, workshops, and jobs that fit your interests.


11th Grade

This is the year that your college preparation goes into high gear. Your grades in junior year are the most highly scrutinized of all four years, so make sure that you are focused on doing as well as you can. Take the PSAT in October. This time it will count for the National Merit Scholarship and other scholarship opportunities. Talk to your school counselor about SAT or ACT prep courses that are available to you. Attend college fairs and tour campuses that you are interested in. If you are too far to visit in person be sure to look for video tours online. Start investigating scholarships that you might qualify for. In the spring of your junior year, take the SAT or ACT to give you time to take it again in the fall if you need to improve your score. Over the summer, complete any audition tapes, portfolios, or special materials that are required for admission in such programs as fine art, music, and theatre. If your interests do not call for these, think about writing some practice admissions essays. Common APP has prompts that they will provide via email. Attend a college night or go to their website to find out more.


12th Grade

You have made it to the top of the high school mountain, but do not let up now. Even though colleges look more closely at your sophomore and junior years, your senior year still counts. Take the SAT or ACT again in the fall, if you need to improve your score. In October, ask teachers and counselors for recommendations. Give them enough background information about your extracurricular activities, so they can write a well-rounded essay about your achievements inside the classroom and out. Start applying to 5-8 colleges and universities. Keep track of scholarship deadlines as well as admission deadlines. Consider taking classes at your local junior college to get a feel for college level courses.