College can be one of the most exciting times in your life, but getting to college, from the difficult application process to paying for your degree, can be a massive challenge. Lucky for you, there are things you can do to make the process easier on yourself. Here’s a few tips about preparing for college while still in high school.
Preparing For College Checklist
Research Your Dream School
One of the first parts of preparing for college is deciding which college or university is right for you. The good news is that there is a school out there for everyone. The bad news is that you have so many options that you might be overwhelmed with choices.
Some students know right away that they want to go to the same school their parents went to, and other students are choosing between a few in-state campuses. Regardless of your position, there are a couple of things you can ask yourself to help narrow down your college search.
One of the first things you might consider is what you hope to do with your degree. If you already know that you want to be an urban planner, then you may want to focus your college search on schools with stellar urban planning programs. Think your dream is too niche?
Whether you want to study auctioneering or Egyptology , there’s a program for you. If, on the other hand, you aren’t sure what you want to major in, you may want to look at bigger schools with many different programs where you will be able to take a wide variety of classes.
You may also want to consider what type of location you’re looking for in a college experience. Maybe you want to get as far away from home as possible, or maybe you would be more comfortable on a campus within driving distance of your family. Some students choose to live at home and attend a local college in order to save money on living costs. Once you narrow down a location, you can start searching for schools in that area.
Already know where you’re headed? It’s not a bad idea to apply to a few different schools even if you have your heart set on just one. Your dreams and goals can change through the college application process, and a different school may be a better match when it comes time to make a final decision. Plus, the application process can be competitive, and applying to more schools may give you more chance of success in your application.
Plan For the SAT and ACT
Once you know where you want to apply, it is time to get down to business and start preparing for college entrance exams. Some schools require the Scholastic Aptitude Test, known as the SAT, and some schools require American College Testing, known as the ACT. Some schools will accept either one, but you might end up having to take both to cover all your bases.
The key to working towards a killer score on either test is preparation, preparation, preparation. Whether you’re taking an after-school prep class or studying by yourself, there are lots of resources available online to help you succeed. Both the SAT and the ACT offer free practice tests, and Khan Academy offers a free SAT practive program in partnership with the College Board.
Taking practice tests can help you not only learn the material but can help you get comfortable with the format of the test. This can help you stay calm and confident when test day rolls around.
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Find Your Passion
In between all that studying, you may want to consider taking some time to get to work in your community. One thing many colleges look for are well-rounded students who are interested in more than just academics.
That means that getting involved in the community could potentially help you write a strong college application, and it may also help you decide what you want to do with your life. Sports obsessed? You might consider taking up a new sport to round out your classes, or volunteering to coach a local youth team.
More into classic literature than shooting hoops? Many schools have programs where you can volunteer to tutor younger students, which can not only help sharpen your skills, but may look great on an application. Whatever you’re into, don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new—you might just find a new passion for marine biology after organizing a beach clean up day with your classmates.
Consider Taking AP Courses
Many schools offer Advanced Placement or “AP” courses. Taking these classes may help you get one step ahead when it comes to college. AP courses allow you to tackle college-level material while you’re still in high school, and at the end of the class, if you pass the AP exam, you could be rewarded with college credits. Why try to rack up college credits in high school?
The more credits you earn from AP classes in high school, the more intro classes you may be able to skip in college. So if you take AP English in high school, you may just get to skip out on the freshman level English class once you’re at university.
Depending on the school, that may mean that you have more opportunity to take specialized classes in your major, or it could even lead to the opportunity to graduate early.
Figure Out Your Finances
There’s no denying that college can be expensive. In fact, college tuition has risen 62.7% from 2006 to 2016, according to the Consumer Price Index . Consider the high costs when planning for how you’ll pay for your degree.
Only 29% of parents plan to fully cover college costs for their kids, which means that even if you’ll get some help from your family, you may need to cover some of the cost of college out of pocket. There are many ways to finance your education—you may want to start by filling out the FAFSA® and applying for grants and scholarships. If those do not cover your costs, you may also consider private student loans.
In the spirit of complete transparency, we recommend exhausting all your federal options before considering SoFi as your private lender. But if you are looking for supplemental funding for your education, private student loans are an option.
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