7 Ways To Start Planning for College Early

It’s never too early to start the college planning process!

If you wait until senior year of high school to start thinking about college, you’ll likely become overwhelmed and spend most of your time worrying about your future, instead of enjoying the last few months with your high school buddies.

Here are a few ways that you can start planning for college early:

1. Discuss College Financing

College is not cheap! You need to understand how you’re going to pay for college before you start the application process, so now is a great time to put together a college funding plan with your parents. Are your parents going to help you pay for college or are you on your own? Will your parents take out loans? Will you take out student loans? What about scholarships? You need to understand all of your funding options. There’s plenty of money out there, you just have to figure out how to get it.

2. Take Advanced Courses

If you want to beef up your high school transcript, start taking college prep, honors, and/or advance placement courses at your high school. If you don’t think your high school is challenging enough, consider taking community college courses during high school. If you take a class at a local community college, you can transfer the credits to a 4-year university and possibly get high school credit for your out-of-school work. Talk to your high school guidance counselor for more information.

3. Consider Potential Careers

Self-evaluation is a large part of the college prep process. What classes do you excel in? Which subject matters interest you the most? Are there any careers that you might want to learn more about? Now is the time to consider:

  • Who Am I?
  • What Do I Want Out Of Life?
  • What Do I Want To Do For A Living?

As you go through this process, be honest with yourself. Every student’s post high school experience will be different.

4. Think About Location

Where do you want to live and learn for the next four years of your life? If it’s California, then it probably doesn’t make sense to apply to the University of Illinois. You can always transfer colleges, but if you do your research ahead of time, you might be able to avoid the hassle of having to deal with the college transfer process.

Take this time to make sure you feel good about the colleges on your list – go on campus visits, stay overnight, eat in the cafeteria, talk with current students, etc. You don’t want any surprises about the campus or surrounding areas on move-in day.

5. Get Involved

Extracurricular activities won’t make up for a poor GPA and low standardized test scores, but colleges do like to see that you can manage your time wisely and that you’re interested in things outside of school. That leads me to my next point…

6. Develop Time Management & Study Skills

Everyone has their own style of learning. Some students learn well in class when the teacher is lecturing on a particular topic, while others learn better by going home to review the textbook on their own. Whatever you style of learning is, make sure that you develop it and take school seriously, because when you get to college, you’re all on your own. No professor is going to hunt you down for homework or call home if you’re consistently late for class. Instead they’ll just give you and “F” and not think twice about it

7. Enjoy High School

You only get to experience high school once, so enjoy it! Planning for college is important, but don’t get so caught up in it that you forget to enjoy the present. It’s all about balance. So I guess my point is, start preparing for college early, but just don’t overdo it!

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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