You’re a freshman or sophomore or junior in high school. (Or you’re the parent/guardian of a freshman, sophomore, or junior in high school.) And you want to go to college. What should you be doing to prepare for applying college and scholarships?

  • Freshman year
    • Keep your GPA up. Colleges and most scholarship committees care about grades. If your GPA is high, you can get into any college you want. Also it’s harder to bring up your GPA from one bad grade than to maintain a good grade.
    • Participate in extracurricular activities. They look good on a college and scholarship application. Plus, they make high school more enjoyable.
    • Have a financial talk with your parent(s)/guardian. Talk with your parents or guardian about how you’re going to pay for college. Do you have a college fund set up? Will they be able to help you pay for college? Is their credit good enough to cosign a loan? Look up the average costs of colleges in your state and colleges around you. Also go to fafsa.gov and go to the FAFSA4caster. [FAFSA stands for Free Application for Student Aid. It is the application every college student is required to fill out and it applies you for all the loans and grants you qualify for.] This will tell you how much financial aid you qualify for. Now keep in mind these numbers are estimates and the cost of tuition is always on the rise.
  • Sophomore year
    • Keep your GPA high.
    • Participate in extracurricular activities.
    • Think about and research possible majors and colleges. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you have to major in to get that career? What colleges offer that major? What colleges offer that major and that you would enjoy attending?
  • Junior year
    • Keep your GPA high.
    • Participate in extracurricular activities.
    • Start touring colleges. Make a list of your top college choices and go visit them (with your parents/guardian). Colleges offer tours everyday of the week and certain Saturdays. It’s important to walk around campus and see if you’re going to like or not.
    • Take the ACT/SAT. With standardize test, practice usually results in a higher grade. The more you take it, the more comfortable you are with it. It may be pricey, but $50 now can save hundreds even thousands of dollars in the future.
    • Start researching scholarship you can apply for next year. Go to my “Scholarship Hunting” article to see how you do this. Also there are some national scholarship competitions that offer juniors scholarships. If you see one you qualify for and are interested in, apply for it.
    • Start thinking of teachers, coaches, community leaders, family friends, neighbors, etc. that can write letters of recommendation. Scholarships (and some colleges) require at least one letter of recommendation. Make a list of people who you could ask and who would write a GOOD recommendation letter for you. Ask them at the beginning of your senior year and give them a resume or a list of your accomplishments.
  • Senior year
    • Keep your GPA high.
    • Participate in extracurricular activities.
    • Have the financial talk again. Prices of college change. The amount of money in your college fund has changed. Your guardian’s job situation may have changed, which will affect the amount of financial aid you qualify for.
    • Apply for college(s). Well the time has come you to apply for college. Make sure you are keeping up with deadlines.
    • Apply for scholarships. You have found scholarships. Time to fill out applications, get letters of recommendations, and write essays. It may be a lot of work, but you could get money for it.
    • Retake the ACT/SAT if necessary. You can retake and send your ACT/SAT scores until the financial aid deadlines (which this is usually mid February). If you are can get a higher score, keep taking it until the deadline.
  • Other tips
    • Starting your freshman year, you and your parents/guardian save $5-$15 per month. This money will go towards college application fees, scholarship application postage, ACT/SAT fees, and other expenses.
    • If you get a job, try to work at places that offer scholarships to workers.