Right now, you’re a few weeks from officially becoming a senior in high school, and that must feel great. We hate to freak you out, but while you’re basking in the glow of finally being the uppermost upperclassman, there’s a lot of college stuff that needs your attention.
1. It seems like a no-brainer, but start exploring college websites of the schools that interest you. If you have ideas about a major, do some research on the program—is it accredited? Are internships available? Are there ways to customize your program? And, while you may be more interested at this point in what the campus looks like, check out the school’s retention rates and job placement rates. Your parents will be impressed.
2. Once you’re on websites, they’re going to want to know who you are and what interests you have. Fill out the forms! Give them your contact info because then they’ll send you more information. Hey, this is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make, so you’ll want to know everything about a school.
3. Once you have a few that seem to fit your interests, start making plans for campus visits over the summer. It’s not too early. Most schools have specific tour dates available where you can view with other families to get a feel in a low-pressure situation or you can take a personal tour. Check out the Admissions website and see what type of tour fits your family.
4. When you’re there, get a business card from an Admission Counselor. You’re going to have a lot of questions over the next year, and those folks are lifesavers!
5. Once you’ve toured, you’ll have plenty of information about costs. Then, it’s time to have a talk with the fam about financial aid and affordability. Make sure as you compare schools that you’re comparing apples to apples. Is the cost listed by credit hours, semester, or by year? Are you adding in fees, books, and room and board? What is the required amount of credit hours for your degree and is it the same from school to school?
6. Speaking of costs, it’s never too early to start looking at scholarships. You’ll need time to research to find all that’s available and all you’re eligible for. Most schools have endowed scholarships in addition to academic scholarships, so be sure you’ve reviewed everything. Oh, and don’t forget to ask teachers for letters of recommendation before your summer break.
7. Organization. It doesn’t sound fun. I lied. I kind of get excited about creating a big binder of information but, to each their own. Maybe it’s a folder on your computer or particular bookmarks, but make sure you’re keeping relevant info in one place. You’re going to be busy your senior year and this will help.
8. Which brings us to deadlines. No one likes to be rushed but few of us work ahead. Every school has some pretty key deadlines: apply date, scholarship date, FAFSA deadline. Seriously, there are important things you don’t want to miss out on.
9. Enjoy the process. You’re making big decisions and probably learning more about price and housing options, courses, and textbooks than you’ve ever imagined. But this is a big deal. So, enjoy learning about schools, reading about majors, and time spent on tour with your family. It’s going to be a really great time in your life, so have fun!