Timeline: Prepare early for college years - Word&Way

Timeline: Prepare early for college years

As you prepare for college or help prepare your teen, here is a list of what should be happening when:

End of eighth grade:

* Look at courses offered in high school. If your high school offers college courses, make plans to get some college credits out of the way in high school.

* Get a feel for credits you’ll need to enter college, such as foreign language, and make a plan to fulfill those.

* Consider signing up for challenge courses whenever you can.

* Look at different diplomas the high schools offer.  Some high schools offer a special college-track diploma that has requirements you’ll work on all four years.

Freshman year:

* Work at getting good grades all through your high school years.

* Also get active in your school. Colleges not only look at grades, but also at school and community activities. They look at all of your high school experience, too, not just senior year. They evaluate clubs involvement, leadership and service.

* Talk to your counselor about possibly taking a SAT II subject test.

* Any time your family is near a college on vacation, ask for a tour; this will familiarize you with college campuses and give you basis to start comparing colleges.

Sophomore year:

* If your school offers it, take the PSAT or PLAN in the fall.

* Consider what will be important to you in a college, such as location, size, specialties, activities, housing. Make a list that you can use to compare colleges. This list will probably change as you start looking at colleges.

* Check out local college fairs where you can get information on colleges. Read the brochures and begin to get a feel for analyzing different colleges.

* Start learning about finances for college; consider getting a job to earn money for college.

* Get to know your school counselor; take advantage of his or her wisdom. He or she will lead you to resources that will help you.

Junior Year:

* Take the PSAT and/or PLAN. PSAT scores from junior year may qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship Competition.

* Visit colleges that specifically interest you. Request their catalogues, activity, and financial aid information.

* Attend financial presentations offered in your community to help you understand the financial options of college.

* As you look at colleges, check them out online and download catalogs. Most colleges give you cost estimates online.

* Start looking at scholarship and grant options. Run searches on the Internet to help you find scholarships. Also consider your parents’ workplace, your workplace, or organizations you or your parents are involved in – often these are places for scholarships. For instance, if your dad is a painter, the local painter’s union may have a scholarship you could compete for. Check out interests and other life facts. For example, one organization offers scholarships for teens who are less than 5 feet tall upon graduation.

* Start filling out scholarship applications that have earlier deadlines.

* Continue to take advantage of college representatives’ visits to your school and community.

* Prepare for the SAT and ACT tests by taking practice tests.

* Prepare to apply for scholarships. Most students look for financial help from many sources. Many scholarship and grant applications need to be received early in your senior year.

Junior year summer/early senior year

* Get ready for the application process: assemble portfolios, collect writing samples, draft application essays. If you’re into sports, contact college coaches at ask about athletic scholarships.

Senior year:    

* Get a calendar you can use specifically to help you meet college application deadlines.

* Consider taking your SAT or ACT again to improve your test scores.

* Visit other colleges you’re interested in attending. By the end of the first semester, you should have six to eight colleges on your final list.

* Continue to talk with your counselor so you can take advantage of his or her help.

* Keep looking for scholarships. Some have spring deadlines.

* Obtain a Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), www.fafsa.ed.gov, in January. Complete it by March 15. You’ll receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) a month after you submit your FAFSA.

* Gather recommendations from teachers, coaches, employers and others for your application processes. Give yourself plenty of time to work on applications, especially essays.

* Have test scores sent to your colleges of choice.

*  Compare financial aid packages from colleges.

* When you decide which school, notify the college. Return financial aid forms.

* Send your final transcript and student loan application.

* Have your deposit at your chosen school by May 1.

Learn more about Missouri’s Baptist colleges and find other helpful information in the July 28 print edition. (7-27-05)