Chapter 1: Getting Organized
By: College Life Planning
Getting organized for college is the most important step before applying. In order to get organized, you need to establish a college checklist. There are a handful of tests, registration dates, requires courses, extracurricular activities and meetings which should be done during your sophomore and junior year of high school.
For those who are sophomores and in the 10th grade, the first step is to take challenging courses in the areas of English, history, geography, foreign languages, government, economics, math, science, and the arts. The next item on your checklist is to speak with your counselors and locate adults willing to talk to you about their profession. Ask them what they like and dislike about their jobs and what level of education is needed for each profession. The third thing on your college prep and college checklist is to get involved in extracurricular activities which interest you or which help you to explore which kind of career you are looking for. Make sure to use your summer wisely in this regard and incorporate a summer course at a local community college, a summer job for experience, or volunteer work. The next item on your checklist is to meet with your counselors to discuss the requirements of each college you are considering. Take the practice SAT tests as well as National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Register early for these and speak with your counselor for fee waivers if you cannot pay the registration fee. Make sure to continue saving for college at this point and visit colleges if you can. Part of saving for college requires an understanding of financial aid. You should learn the difference between college loans, grants, work study, and scholarships. This can be done at www.college.gov. Talk to other college students you know about their experiences to gain insight. They can recommend career paths for summer employment as well as colleges which might match your interests.
You aren’t the only one who has a checklist to create. Your parents should be part of your checklist. Their roles include helping you balance a part time job with school, helping you take night courses at a local college or contributing to financial aid. They should help you learn about the required standardized tests and read an overview of financial aid options and scholarship options for you at www.ed.gov/parents.
For those in their junior year of high school, the college checklist which should be created expounds upon the initial checklist for the 10th grade. You should continue taking challenging courses such as AP courses in the areas of English, history, geography, foreign languages, government, economics, math, science, and the arts. After this you should continue to meet with your counselor or career advisor to discuss the colleges you are interested in and what their individual requirements are. The third item on the checklist is continuing with your participation in extracurricular activities through your school and/or your local community. At this point you should begin to decide which colleges are of the most interest to you. Add to your checklist that you should contact each of the most interesting colleges and request additional information as well as the admission application. Speak with them about any special admissions requirements, deadlines for admissions, as well as financial aid. The next check point is to attend college fairs and speak with the college representatives about admissions information. After this, visit the colleges you find most interesting and speak with current students to get a first-hand perspective. Now you begin considering people who would write letters of recommendation for you. Consider people such as teachers, employers, or counselors. When you consider your field of study, consider which jobs you want. Exploring careers as well as their potential for earnings can be done through www.bls.gov/oco.
The next step is investigating financial aid from federal sources, state sources, local and private sources. Counselors can offer information pertaining to this. On the same note, add to your check list the investigation of scholarships. These are offered by credit unions, religious groups, labor unions, corporations, professional associations, as well as private parties. Libraries will help you locate scholarship directories for females, minorities, and people who are disabled. The next step is to register for the SAT I, SAT II, ACT, and any AP tests and then take them. For those who have difficulty paying the registration fee, your counselor can help direct you to fee waivers. During the fall of your junior year is when you have to take the PSAT and the NMSQT in order to qualify for scholarships. In the spring is when you register and take the SAT and ACT. Lastly, you should continue to save for college.
By this time you will be ready to discuss your college plans in detail, complete all of the financial aid forms on time, write to your colleges, take all necessary entrance exams, prepare your application, and visit those colleges you truly wish to pursue. Helpful websites for this stage include:
- (619) 823-5974– Nathan Cornett
- 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)