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Action Steps for Early College Prep

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Although many decisions are made during the senior year, it is best to begin the college process early. There are countless details involved in the college admissions process, and gaining the knowledge necessary in a timely manner is crucial to ultimately making the final decision on where you will attend.

Here's a list of action steps that will help high school students stay focused and on track:

1. Start researching colleges by visiting, attending information sessions, reviewing websites, attending college fairs and getting on college mailing lists. While attending local college fairs, find some that appeal to you. Start considering criteria such as academic programs, location, cost and size of school, retention rate, campus life and housing. Take notes on colleges of interest and learn what distinguishes one college from another.

2. Keep your grade point average up. Take courses that are challenging and part of a strenuous curriculum. See what your high school offers and take harder classes that are part of a college prep curriculum.

3. Learn about community service and internship opportunities in your area that are in your field of interest. Talk to other students and adults to see if they have additional ideas. Network with those you know.

4. Get to know your school counselor, as he/she will be writing college recommendations for you. Think about questions you want to ask, visit their office and see what materials are available. Most school counselors are extremely busy with little time so set an appointment if necessary.

5. Take the SAT/ACT in your junior year. Test date calendars can be found
at http://www.collegeboard.com and http://www.act.org . Do practice and prepare. Some colleges require SAT Subject Exams -- you should become familiar with those and learn the admission requirements of the colleges where you are applying.

6. Discuss money. Will you need financial aid? Concerned about tuition? Has your family saved money for your college education? Remember, the college will determine the true cost of college where you will attend. Some private colleges give their own scholarships and grants so you want to investigate the options.

7. Stay involved in extracurricular activities. Just select a few that tie in with your interests. Do things you like and stick with it -- depth and continuity are impressive on a college application. Volunteer, but not with too many organizations.

8. Practice writing and keep a journal. College essays will require you to be self-reflective and write in the first person.

Students who work more effectively with good time management skills helps reduce their stress during the college process. Selecting interests and strong extracurricular activities early in high school can help students present impressive resumes during the college application season. Students who develop extracurriculars that demonstrate depth and continuity and show a strong character, as well as, communication and leadership skills may increase chances for admission.

Admissions to selective U.S. universities or graduate schools are extremely competitive, and a multi-year college planning program is essential to maximize opportunities. The college process is very demanding. When the work involved is consolidated into a few months, it can significantly increase the stress level for students.

Starting early is key. Students will gain more knowledge about colleges, their choices will be more relevant, and they can actually enjoy working on their college applications.

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