Top 5 Tips For High Schoolers Preparing For College

By on December 15, 2018

It’s that time of year again. As the leaves begin to change and fall is underway, high school juniors and seniors all over the world begin to prepare for the exciting and stressful adventure that is applying to college. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with so many options and so much to prepare during this time. But to help you make it through, here are five of the top tips for preparing to apply for college.

#1 – Creating a Plan of Action

The first part of the application process is deciding where you want to apply. You have probably already received brochures or other literature from different colleges and are aware of how many options there are out there. Narrowing down the field becomes much easier if you know what you want. Whether there is a type of program you want to pursue or a particular geographical region you want to study in, being aware of your desires can help with your selections.

After deciding where you want to apply, it is important to set deadlines for yourself. Consult with a guidance counselor, academic advisor, or even your parents to help establish a timeline. Remember, it is never too early to start preparing and the sooner you get everything submitted, the sooner you can stop worrying about it.

#2 – Being Thorough and Consistent

One of the areas of the application process that is often overlooked is that of being consistent and thorough. Make sure you are familiar with all that will be required of you from any particular institution. Once you have read a school’s requirements, read them again. You can never be too careful or too thorough in the application process. Each year, hundreds of students get overlooked because they neglected to send their test scores or forgot to attach their personal essay. You can prevent such problems from occurring by exercising care, staying organized, and paying attention.

Consistency is another aspect that students applying for college struggle with. A great example of this comes into play if you have a nickname. Suppose your first name is Elizabeth, but you have always gone by Liz. It is extremely important to make sure you fill out each individual component of your application with the same name. If you are Elizabeth on some documents, and Liz on others, this could cause some confusion for an admission’s department. Granted, most people could probably figure out that Liz is short for Elizabeth, but maintaining consistency will improve your overall presentation.

#3 – Preparing Early

As stated earlier, it is never too early to start preparing for college. Whether this means taking test prep classes ahead of time or deciding on your dream college by the age of 6, the sooner you start thinking about college, the less worrisome it will be down the road. Consider touring some campuses, or attending a local college fair. Talk to family and friends about why they chose the institution they attended. There is a wealth of information out there about higher education if you choose to access it. If you do your research ahead of time and start thinking about college early on, the less likely you are to be overwhelmed when you actually have to start applying.

Many institutions offer an Early Admission or Early Decision program, for those that are very prepared. If you have done your research and have a clear first choice college, then taking advantage of one of these early programs could be wise. Most early applications are required around November, and will send a decision in early winter. It is often required that if you are offered Early Decision, that you commit to attend that college and withdraw any applications to other schools. This is why it is not an advised route to take unless you have a very clear top preference.

#4 – Writing a Personal Essay

Nowadays, fewer schools are requiring a personal essay as part of one’s application. However, depending on where you hope to attend, the essay can still be one of the most valuable components to making an admissions decision. Admissions counselors use the personal essay to get to know the potential student. Especially with school’s that do not host interviews, this serves as a way for the school to really get to know who you are. With that said, even if it is not required, it is highly suggested that you still submit a personal essay.

When writing your essay, think about what makes you who you are, and what you want the college to know about you. It does not have to be about some fantastic adventure or a tragic obstacle you have faced. Each individual experience you have been through makes you unique, and that is what they want to see. If there is something in your life that you are passionate about, something you feel has really affected you as a person, or you have a really great story to tell, write about that. The best essays do not read like they were required or forced, they read like you are being yourself.

#5 – Keep Calm

Perhaps the hardest thing to keep in mind when applying for college is staying calm. This can easily be one of the most stressful times in one’s life if you let it overwhelm you. Whereas it cannot be accurately said that the application process is not a big deal, there are ways you can help combat the stress.

Remember that the earlier you start preparing, the more time you have to fine tune any components of the application that you are worried about. Talk to advisors at your school if you feel like you are struggling in a particular area. If there is something that needs extra attention, they can help guide you to solutions to improve your application.

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About Amanda Jensen

FSN college advice columnist - Amanda gives parents and students knowledgeable advice on college planning, tuition financing and scholarships. With up to date and accessible information covering everything from personal finances to federal government policies, she is determined to make the college experience a painless one for all party's involved. You can find Amanda on !

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