Adults start asking us what we wish to be when we grow up from a very young age. Like we’re really supposed to know. By the time middle school hits, questions about colleges, majors, and classes already start to pop up; and by high school, it’s all about doing everything and anything to make us look good on that application. Sure, it is never too early to start thinking about your college journey if that is your goal. But it can all be quite overwhelming sometimes, can it not? No need to worry! Here at Alliance Tutoring, we believe that a proper organization, the right resources, and a bit of perseverance are all high schoolers need to get ready for college!

A woman in a yellow jacket holding books.
Your academic journey won’t be easy, but it will all pay off.

#1 Decide if college is the path you want to take

The decision to commit to a bachelor’s program is one of the biggest you will have to make. That is mainly because a college education is a big investment of your time and money. And, just like any other investment, the benefits should outweigh the costs.

For instance, if your dream job requires a degree, you have the time, financial means, and grades, and you enjoy learning and like the idea of academic life, then going to college is pretty much a no-brainer. At other times, there are many valid reasons that make the high-schoolers question the choice of getting a college education. In some cases, they decide that they want to enter the military, enter a family business, become an entrepreneur, or simply get a job straight out of high school. Finally, there’s the fact that certain career paths do not necessarily require a four-year college degree but offer just as much potential for success.

#2 Meet with a high school counselor to help you get ready for college

Learning how to find, engage and develop solid relationships with mentors is one of the most important steps you can take to prep for college. And high school is the perfect time for that! School counselors, for instance, are a fantastic resource; they can support you and offer advice and guidance about education, life at the university, and the steps you need to take to get there. But your options also extend to family members, coaches, or any other adult who can help you prepare for what lies ahead and help you make a successful transition to college. Students should not think they are going to do it alone.

A woman in a black shirt holding a pen.
Don’t take your school counselor for granted. They can be invaluable resources.

#3 Check out the requirements

According to experts, students should start by creating an ongoing list of skills, potential career interests, and schools that meet their criteria. Once you have found your calling or if you have a specific degree in mind already, you’ll want to check out the requirements needed to pursue this subject. And you’ll want to do that well ahead of time to avoid any last-minute stress. English, science, math, and history are the core classes that universities focus on in general. Nevertheless, the degree of your choosing may require some additional coursework, such as advanced math or a second language, to gain acceptance.

#4 Break things down year-by-year

No one likes trudging through a never-ending schedule of educational requirements and obligations morning, noon, and night, without a break. Why not make it easier on yourself and break these tasks down into bitesize steps? Join forces with your counselor to try and come up with an actionable plan that will help you achieve your goals. Starting from your freshman year, your counselor can advise you on which extracurriculars to take and what grades to aim for. Then, devising a four-year blueprint with a flexible strategy will help you outline, break down, organize, and complete all the tasks necessary while still allowing you to get the most out of your high school experience.

#5 Take classes that will prepare you for college

You will spend most of your high school years preparing and building an effective academic resume to help you gain an edge on college admissions. Your course selection and the outcome speak volumes about your academic potential and preparation and can thus make or break a transcript. In the eyes of admissions officers, it matters whether your course selection is well-rounded. So, both your core courses and electives say a lot. Second, your transcript should signal your progress toward a goal and display strong grades as predictors of your college performance. Third, taking advanced courses shows you’re willing to accept challenges. Honors, AP, and IB credits, accompanied by good grades, are eye candy for admissions officers. Finally, starting strong enables you to finish strong in your first and final high school years. And that’s important because colleges look for follow-through.

#6 Engage in extracurricular activities

Extracurriculars are not only fun but also look fantastic on college applications. These electives are so attractive to admissions officers because they reveal your personality. They also show how you might contribute to the student body as a whole and bring value to the university. Colleges do not necessarily care if you’re on a debate team, sports team, in your school’s band, or active in several clubs in organizations. Mere participation in activities like these highlights your commitment, achievements, motivation, self-discipline, skills, passions, and ability to influence the world around you. In other words, it paints a picture of you much better than any numbers, grades, and tests can.

A man holding a brown football ball.
Engaging in extracurriculars that you enjoy can help you get ready for college.

#7 Maintain a strong GPA

Grade point average is just one part of a broader set of metrics used to measure student and academic success. But it’s a strong predictor because it shows your comprehension, dedication, and determination. So, admissions folks will use this number to evaluate whether or not you can meet the standards and expectations set by the degree program or university. Therefore, one of the fail-proof ways to prepare for college is to maintain a strong GPA in high school. The higher your high school GPA, the better your qualifications will be.

#8 Research potential colleges and majors

By taking the time to do your research on prospective colleges, you can make better decisions regarding your future. There will be several factors you should consider, including the requirements for admissions, its location, and cost.

For instance, do you want to attend a local university or one far away? If the latter, are you ready to move several states away? Moving to college is tough, so you need to be prepared for this. And what about student housing? Also, can your family realistically afford your dream university? What financial aid do your target colleges receive? Which schools have the best programs for your major? What can you do during your high school years that will get them to notice you?

Sit down with your family and the school counselor. Compare pros and cons across the board, narrow down your options, and target the ones that are the best fit.

#9 Filing the FAFSA®

With rising tuition, most families rely on a combination of resources to afford college. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a free form that unlocks thousands of dollars of financial aid for college and grad school. In other words, it’s free money you don’t need to pay back, and it’s one of the crucial steps the students and their families can take to get ready for college in terms of finances. And the sooner students file, the better!

#10 Visit campuses

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you should get to know your top picks. And the best way to do this is to pay their campuses a visit sometime during your junior year. By taking an on-campus or virtual tour, you can see the premises, explore the campus and the campus community, imagine yourself attending, check out housing, get a feel for the area, et cetera. This will help you make a fully informed decision about your higher ed!

Aerial view of a university.
Pay a visit to your top picks – preferably in person.

#11 Get ready for testing

Though many four-year colleges and universities require standardized tests like the ACT or SAT for admission, nowadays, many do not. If your college is test-optional, it means you can choose whether to send the scores in. That gives you more control over how you present yourself to colleges. For example, if your ACT scores are on the lower end, you could choose not to submit them and turn your attention to strengthening other parts of your application instead. This way, you can prevent your low scores from negatively impacting your chances in the admissions process. That said, beginning the practice for these tests early on can be a huge help. Additional studying is essential, and there are many resources that can help you with that.

#12 Apply early

If there’s one thing you definitely want to do to get ready for college, it’s to submit your college applications as soon as possible. Ideally, you should start the college application process before beginning your senior year. That’s because a lot of work goes into the application process. There will be tests, essays, recommendation letters, and a ton of paperwork you’ll need to pull together. Plus, if you’re applying to multiple schools, that only adds additional work to your to-do list. Don’t forget that there may be different schedules and deadlines from one college to another. So, it’s essential to leave enough room in your schedule to get everything done on time – preferably early!

Best of luck!