|Dear College Made Simple Reader,
The junior year of high school is without question the most pivotal time for any college-bound student.
To colleges, it’s all about grades, the SAT/ACT, extracurricular activities, and finding out if your child is ready for the realities of the college curriculum.
For juniors themselves, it’s also about proper planning and preparation.
Here’s a checklist we’ve put together, broken down into 3 categories, to help your student be fully prepared…
The High School Junior’s “Action Plan” for College
1. Plan Smartly for Testing
A great start for juniors is consulting with their guidance counselor – whether it’s the PSAT, SAT, or ACT (or all of them). That includes times and dates, how to register, and the costs associated with these tests.
Some tips for taking the PSAT:
- Sign up to take the PSAT in early fall of junior year.
- By December, students, parents and guidance counselor should plan to review PSAT scores.
Then comes the ACT, which is held every December, February, April, June, September and October.
If your student is taking the ACT, we recommend:
- Signing up to take the ACT exam by November.
- Taking the December or February ACT during the junior year.
Finally, the SAT…
SATs are held in only four months of the year – the last date this year is December 7, with absolute sign-up deadline of November 22.
For 2014, the dates and deadlines are as follows:
- January 25 (deadline January 10)
- March 8 (deadline February 21)
- May 3 (deadline April 18)
- June 7 (deadline May 23)
By the end of February, your student should be registered to take a SAT exam and already studying for it.
2. Research Colleges Efficiently
Choosing the right college begins with gathering information about schools and programs. One of the most important tips I can give you is to stay organized.
Use separate folders for different schools. Label them. Try to organize their contents as identically as possible to compare information more easily.
Some other recommendations:
- Attend a college fair by October or November at the latest.
- Also by November, it’s a great idea to have scheduled a few campus visits. A campus tour is the best way to get a feel for what a school is like.
- By January or February, narrow down ideal colleges. Among things to consider: Tuition costs, proximity to home, large or small school, public or private, academic curriculum, student-teacher ratio, and urban or rural location.
- By the end of March, the list of schools should be trimmed down considerably (think 5 to 10).
- By April, begin working on college applications and admission essays.
- By the end of summer, your child should have visited most colleges they are seriously considering attending.
3. Know all the facts and options when it comes to paying for college
There is well over $150 billion available each year from the Federal Government, states, colleges, universities, as well as private foundations and organizations.
Getting your “fair share” is often just a matter of knowing how to get it.
Here are some of the most important things to do to financially prepare for college during the junior year…
- In the fall, have a “family talk” about how you’re paying for college: Is your student going to contribute? And if so, what are they willing to help with? Are they expecting to take on loans? Are you expecting to take on loans? This is also the best time to get the know the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); being familiar with it before applying will make the entire process much easier.
- By the end of November, your student should have searched for and identified some scholarships they intend to apply for. It’s important to do this early because scholarships have different deadlines – some as early as the summer after the junior year.
- During holiday break, learn about student loan options and eligibility requirements for student loans.
- By March, as your child narrows down the list of desired schools to at most 10, estimate how much it will cost to attend each. Expand your search for scholarships to include local organizations in your community, organizations related to their desired fields of study, scholarships available only to students (or future students) of schools they wish to attend.
- By April, contact each school’s financial aid office to see what kind of payment options they have – monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semesterly.
- Also in April, as you work on college applications and essays, begin filling out scholarship applications. It is never a bad thing to be the first one in the door.
To your college admissions and funding success,
Co-founder, College Planning Network, LLC
Publisher, College Made Simple – The Free Educational Resource of College Planning Network, LLC