For many youths and their parents, the process of applying and preparing for college can be a daunting one. There are so many forms to fill out, documents to send in, and overall planning that many begin to feel stressed before they even begin their first undergraduate course. A college prep plan is essential and can be started as soon as a student enters high school. The sooner that certain steps are identified and completed, the less stress you will experience in the long run.
1.Identify Colleges and Understand Their Requirements
It’s never too early to begin looking at colleges. In fact, students in middle school should start looking at the colleges and universities they may want to attend post-high school. This early assessment of potential schools can prepare students for the requirements of each of school, such as GPA, testing and score requirements, community service, etc. Knowing what is required prior to entering into high school (or freshman year at the latest) gives students an idea of what goals they will need to set for themselves during their high school career as well as create a plan to accomplish those goals. The Big Future tool provided by CollegeBoard can be a helpful asset in researching and choosing the school that is right for you.
2. Financial Planning
It’s no secret that college is expensive. According to Forbes, the average cost for a four-year, private college is $49,320. For those attending public colleges and universities, the average cost is $9,650 for in-state students and $24,930 for out of state students. The high price tag associated with attending college makes it imperative for students and their families to begin planning for financial expenses as soon as possible. Students can apply for the federal Free Application for Student Aid in October of their senior year, but it is never too early to begin researching and applying for private scholarships and grants as well. The more private funding you accumulate, the less you will have to worry about relying on loans that you have to pay back after graduation. Forbes lists helpful ideas to address college finances via their website:
Every college has its own requirements for testing and score minimums. The most common college entrance test is the SAT. You can prepare for the SAT by taking an SAT prep class as well as taking the Pre-SAT. For students planning to attend medical school, the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) will be required. The MCAT covers the areas of physical and biological sciences as well as verbal reasoning. There are courses to help you with MCAT preparation. Some courses are even offered online, providing an added flexibility to the MCAT preparation process.
4. Be Mindful of Your GPA
As stated before, it is important to know what the requirements for entrance are as early as possible. Although every college has its own criteria regarding GPA, most rely on a cumulative (all four years) GPA rather than just the grades you receive in your senior year. You should try to exceed the minimum required GPA for entrance to your college of choice.
Preparing for college has its own unique stressors. Having a concrete plan will reduce some of the stress and hopefully lead to the ultimate outcome: entrance to your first-choice college.