Jill Haley: Year-round college planning
Many parents believe that college planning starts in the fall of the senior year of high school, as it did when they applied.
Not any more.
One of the biggest changes to the college application process is the extended time and planning it entails.
The process of finding the right college — and making yourself a good candidate for admission — can start as early as the freshman year in high school!
Let’s take a look at what families can do, year-round, to help get accepted into college:
— Winter: Students begin the process of registering for classes for the following school year. It is best to take the most rigorous courses that you can be successful at. Look at the course bulletin that the school publishes to see the selection of classes.
Colleges look upon Honors and Advanced Placement courses very favorably.
However; students must be able to handle the rigor and time required of these courses to be successful.
Most college campuses offer pre-college experiences for high school students during the summer. This is a great way for students to experience college life and decide if a college campus may be right for them. Applications for these pre-college programs are often due in February.
— Spring: The time when juniors (and some sophomores) take the SAT or ACT for the first time.
This March will be when the first new SAT will be launched. If taken as a junior, students will have a chance to re-take the test(s) in the fall.
Khan Academy is partnering with CollegeBoard to provide free SAT prep for students. Taking a full-length practice test will help students get used to the timing and pace of the test.
— Summer: A great time to participate in activities. Almost all college applications have a section where students list their community service and extra-curricular activities. Another area of interest to colleges is employment, which shows responsibility and maturity.
Students should check out classes at community colleges. Taking a community college course demonstrates college readiness to the admissions folks.
— Fall: College applications open as soon as August. Working on the college essay is time consuming, beginning early is essential.
Visiting colleges during fall break is ideal for all students. Make sure to sign-up for the tour and a meeting with the admissions and financial aid offices, if offered.
Sophomores and juniors will take the PSAT in October. This is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship.
Parents can get an estimate of their financial aid eligibility by logging on to FAFSA.ed.gov and use the FAFSA4Caster. This can be done as early as freshman year to help with college planning.
Beginning next year, parents and senior students will file the FAFSA in October and financial aid will be based on the prior year’s tax information.
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