This is a point that cannot be stressed enough Cesar. You can never start college planning too early. Knowing that, where are you supposed to start? There’s a lot that goes into the college prep process. Among the skills you should learn while in high school is, developing sound study habits. It’s important to remember that no matter how smart you are, college courses can be tough. Even students that have been in honors classes or AP courses all through school may find themselves struggling in college. This is why high school is about more than taking challenging courses. It’s about developing the right study habits that can carry a student through a successful career in higher education.
STEP 1: CREATE AN FSA ID & COMPLETE THE FAFSA APPLICATION
Of the tasks to be completed during your senior year, creating an FSA ID should be one of the first things to cross off the list. The FSA ID replaced what used to be known as the FAFSA PIN. It’s a unique identifier that acts as a signature on electronic documents. Both parents and students will need to create one. It only takes a few minutes to create an FSA ID, but it may take a couple of days for it to process. This is why it’s best for parents and students to get it out of the way early. Once you have your FSA ID, you’re ready to start the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Beginning October 1 of senior year, parents and students can complete the FAFSA to apply for federal and state financial aid. Remember that states have a limited amount of financial aid available, so if you want the best chance at getting your maximum financial aid award, fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible your senior year. The FAFSA will be done each year while you’re in college, so it’s not just a one-time-only form.
STEP 2: RESEARCH & VIST COLLEGES
Researching colleges is vitally important to decide where you want to apply. Much of this research can be done online now, with some sites even offering 3D tours of campuses and live forums to ask questions from real students. If possible, visit the schools near the top of the list to get a better feel for campus life and the student body. Another good route to learning more specific colleges is attending college fairs, info sessions with visiting admissions representatives, or talking to current students. You can begin researching colleges at any point, but by 11th grade the process should be underway. When creating a college list, you’ll need to juggle numerous priorities and decide which are most important to you. These might include things like college size, geographic location, program offerings, and student life. Then you’ll need to find colleges that meet your criteria and represent a good balance of schools to which you have a realistic shot for admissions.
STEP 3: ASK FOR LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
Whether you apply using the common app, the coalition app, or a university-specific application, you will inevitably be asked for letters of recommendation. Before you request these, be sure that you understand the requirements for them as dictated by your specific application. Some applications specify that these must be written by teachers, others request one from a teacher and one from a guidance counselor, and still others leave the decision entirely up to you. In any case, the person who writes your recommendations should know you well enough to speak to your specific strengths and be able to provide concrete examples of these. Request recommendation letters at the end of 11th grade or early in the year during 12th grade.
STEP 4: CREATE AN APPLICATION TIMELINE
There are several different options for college application timelines. Some students decide it is best to apply early decision to a top choice school. Other students opt for early action applications, while still more pursue regular decision. Once you’ve decided on the basic timeline for your college applications, create a calendar that includes all your upcoming application deadlines. Programming notifications into your phone or mobile device to give yourself a few reminders in the days leading up to these deadlines is a great idea. A standout college application will present a clear picture of a student with well-rounded academic pursuits but specialized interests and experiences. Generally, to get into a selective college, you will need to perform well across the board in your academic classes, but you should also show some specialized interests, ideally ones that relate to your goals for the future. Your application theme is essentially your unique, comprehensive story of who you are as a person and a student.
STEP 5: WRITE A KILLER ESSAY
The Common App essay prompts are usually released in the spring before they are due, and most other college applications are on a similar timeline. You can preview these prompts and begin brainstorming and even drafting your essays during the summer before 12th grade. This is a great time to reflect carefully since you won’t be under the constraints of a normal school year and will usually have a little more free time. You should be writing second and final drafts of your essays by early fall of 12th grade. At the most basic level, there are two types of essays you’ll be writing for college applications: your personal statement and your supplemental essays. The personal statement is the big, 650-word essay you send to many of the schools you apply to, while the supplementals are more college-specific and often times shorter in length (although not always). Don’t forget to have a teacher or mentor edit and proofread for you before you submit a final draft. Applying to college is an involved process, and it would be a shame to present a less than perfect application due to a hasty oversight. I recommend that you check every single aspect of your application three times to ensure that you present your best self before you submit it.
STEP 6: THE MOMENT OF TRUTH: SEND YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATION(S)
It’s finally time for you to start sending college applications. Ideally, each student should apply to at least three colleges. One college should be a “reach school.” This is a more selective institution where it would be a dream to attend. The second should be a “safety school.” This is another good school that a student is confident they will be admitted to. The third is a school somewhere in between. It’s also important for students to consider the different college admissions deadlines when applying. Early action and early decision admissions deadlines can come as early as mid-October for some schools. While early applications don’t necessarily increase a student’s chance of getting accepted, it can get them priority when it comes to housing and consideration for specific scholarships.
Cesar here’s a tip that many college students don’t realize until much later in their academic careers. Get to know your academic advisor! Academic advisors are here to point students in the right direction and keep them on track to graduate. A good advisor can provide valuable advice regarding classes and what they need to take in order to graduate.
1. Study for the SATs. - Nowadays there are a ton of resources online to help you study, as well as books and other resources.
2. Form a strong professional relationship with your teachers - Your teachers are your best advocates, and will be able to provide letters of recommendation for your application, and might be willing to read over some of the written materials for your application. They can also provide insight into their individual field of study, to give you an idea what you might want to pursue in college.
3. Research universities - Each university is different and will provide you with a different experience, so try to find which one fits you and your goals best. Also, tuition varies among universities as well, so it's important to research how much college will cost you and what scholarship opportunities are available to you.
If your grades were not the best in high school or if you'd like to save a bit of money on tuition, you can also choose to attend a community college first. Attending community college can save you a lot of money on the basic classes that are needed for every degree (english, basic math, history, etc.). Each community college gives you the opportunity to transfer to a four-year university as well. Your application will be different than if you applied directly from high school as they look only at your community college grades, which can be really helpful for some students. I attended a community college before transferring to a four-year university, as it was the best option for me financially.
Hope this helps!
I finally did go talk to the College Advisor to ask for help. It took a lot of extra work to get things back on track however, I got involved in some activities I enjoyed like theater, dance, music, and took some classes that I was also interested in. All this turned things around and I was finally able to learn better habits and ultimately get a degree. I know things are very different now and I do wish that I had approached things more positively back then however, going through the tough grind taught me that I had to WANT it and I had to put the work in to get it! That lesson... aside going to College propelled me to where I am today as well as my very strong work ethic and commitment to anything I set out to do.
Times are different now, I'm not suggesting anyone follow my path. I got lucky that I did get in, that I didn't drop out and that somehow I matured and turned things around!!!!!
Applying to college can be crazy and I remember the list I made and how I would check off important things to complete; remember to keep calm and stay organized because this will be a tremendous help!
Best of luck!
Yasemin recommends the following next steps:
Step 2: Google in-state schools for your state (these will have the least cost to you). Also talk with your school’s counselor to help you pick a good school for what you are possibly wanting to major in.
Step 3: Look at school’s websites for what the are good for, what requirements you need for your GPA, how much tuition and fees and room and board are, and what their application process is like.
Step 4: CFNC.org is a good first step to fill out before applying. This will save you time filling out applications. Some applications cost money. Sometimes your high school counselor can help out with finding ways to waive these fees. Send out three or more applications.
If your school has a college counselor, try talking to them about applying to some schools that might be more of a "reach"! But if they really discourage you from applying to a dream school because you don't have the prerequisites, I would just go with your gut and apply anyway... (if you can afford it, some apps are expensive unfortunately). I know plenty of people who got into schools who their counselor told them would be "impossible" for them to get into. Believe in yourself!
I hope this was helpful!