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College Planning Starts Earlier Than You Think

Shaylee Mazzone
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The best way to alleviate some of the senior year stress is to start setting yourself up for success and planning for college your first year of high school.

How do you do that? Well, it’s easier than you think.

Let’s start with freshman year:

Choose the right classes

Are you a wiz with numbers or have a knack for history? Consider enrolling in Honors or Advanced Placement (AP) level classes. What’s the difference? Honors courses are taught at a faster pace and offer more material than a standard level class. Often times honors level classes can lead to an invitation to join the National Honor Society (NHS) which can be a huge advantage when applying to college. AP classes are a little more difficult than honors classes because they are taught at the same level as an entry-level college course. The good news is- they also come with the added bonus of college credit!

Take advantage of electives! You may find a new passion or interest (while also being able to pad your college resume). A wide range of classes are offered, from photography and home economics to wood shop and even learning a foreign language. Now is the time to learn as much as you can.

Extra-Curricular Activities-

Your school offers so many activities outside of the classroom- like joining a sports team, public speaking or debate and even community service. All these activities look great on a college application and you might even discover a new passion or career path.

Onto sophomore year:

Now that you’ve adjusted to life in high school, it’s time to do a little more!

Apply for scholarships

There are so many scholarship opportunities for underclassmen and applying for scholarships early will help with senior year stress. (Plus, you have all of your extracurriculars and maybe some higher-level classes from freshman year to build up that resume)

Consider taking zero-hour classes-

Zero hours classes begin before the regular school day. Taking extra classes helps you complete your high school education earlier, giving the opportunity to take college courses in your senior year. Most high schools have a program or partnership with a nearby community college and will help you get everything set up (so you’ll be ahead freshman year of college and SAVE MONEY by not taking these classes at university).

Take advantage of summer:

Look into places you can volunteer in your community or church, get an internship, or even…get your first job. It’s not as glamorous as laying out by the pool all day, sleeping until noon or binge-watching the latest Netflix series- but now is the time to start building your resume.

Now Junior Year:

Over the past two years, you’ve been able to experience a ton of new things and now- it’s time to kick it up a notch!

Explore a trade program-

Most high schools offer a trade program where you can earn a certificate in Culinary Arts, Cosmetology, Welding or even Aviation at NO COST. This means, while all your classmates are applying for retail jobs (most likely making minimum wage), you’ll be able to get a job that pays significantly more which will really set you up for success.

Connect with your guidance counselor and your parents-

Your school guidance counselor has so many great resources at their disposal and can help you create a college blueprint. They’re also able to help you figure out what type of school is best for you. Are you organized enough to attend online college? (it’s a lot harder than you think) Should you live at home and attend community college while earning your associate’s degree? (you’ll save a ton of money)

It’s time to start APPLYING TO COLLEGE-

I know what you’re thinking- ALREADY?? The summer before your senior year is the best time to start applying to college. After you’ve connected with your parents and guidance counselor, you’ll have an idea of what’s best for you. One thing to keep in mind when applying for school is, most colleges have an application fee. (tip: if you’re from a lower income family, you can call the college and get a form to waive the application fee)

And finally… Senior Year

You’re in the home stretch, keep up the hard work!

Standardized tests-

For starters, take the SAT earlier in the year so you have time to retake it if you don’t do as well as you’d like. Most high schools offer SAT/ACT prep courses, these are something you’re definitely going to want to take advantage of. If these prep courses are not offered at your school, look to your local community center or library for helpful resources. You can even start your own study group. One thing to note about these tests is, you have to pay each time you take them. (tip: if taking these tests don’t fit into your budget, you can contact them for a fee waiver form)

File your FAFSA®️

In January, after winter break, is the best time to file your FAFSA®️. Filing early gives you enough time to just in case you get chosen for verification to be sure all your ducks are in a row. (tip: if you get chosen for verification, the school who notifies you will cover any shipping costs for paperwork. Just ask them where to go and access their school account)

Decide on a school-

After your acceptance letters begin to come in and you receive your award letters, sit down with your parents and decide which school makes the most sense. Sometimes it’ll make more sense to attend community college and live at home, and that’s okay. Everybody’s college plans are different.

With all of that out of the way, enjoy the rest of your time in high school. You’re going to make memories to last a lifetime, from football games to prom, and really great friendships.

 

 

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We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.