Preparing for College Checklist

From taking the ACT junior year of high school to checking into your dorm room when starting freshman year of college, there is a lot of preparation that needs to be completed in order to successfully become a college student.

This is an important process, so we’ve compiled a few important steps that should be taken through high school and up until the start of college. Take a look at our preparing for college checklist below:

High School Juniors

Junior year is when the fun really begins. Although you can begin thinking about life after high school earlier, junior year is when college preparation starts.

Preparing for the ACT

Most high school students prepare for the ACT. This is a test that the majority of colleges require in order for admission. The scores range from 0-36, while the national average in the United States is 21.

The ACT consists of five sections: english, math, reading, science and writing. The writing portion is optional, but most schools request it. The test takes about four hours to complete and you get a short break at one point during the test.

Some universities have a minimum requirement that students need to attain on their ACT in order to be granted admission, so it is important start preparing at the beginning of junior year. There are many practice books that you can review on your own or there are tutoring organizations that can help you bring up your score.

Personally, I went to Huntington Learning Center and they helped me raise my ACT score by four points. Depending on the school, they may take your best overall ACT score or take a cumulative score of the best scores in each category, so it is important to check with each school you apply to.

The ACT can be the deciding factor on whether you are granted admission to the university, so preparation is crucial!

College visits galore

Junior year is also the time to start going on college visits and information sessions at your high school. All universities have prospective student visit days which give high school students and parents information about requirements to get in, the campus, majors the school has and financial information.

There is also an option to go on a walking tour of campus to see the residence halls and buildings where classes take place. This is a good way for students see if the school is a good fit for them. Most college visits take about two hours, and are run by admissions counselors who are happy to answer any questions if you have them.

Most universities also have representatives that do high school visits so that you don’t have to go the distance to learn about what the school has to offer. College is a huge investment and a place where you spend four years of your life, so it is important to choose a school that is right for you.

High School Seniors

Time to start applying

Now that you have your ACT score and have visited different colleges that interest you, it is time to start applying to college. My high school counselor always suggested applying to six schools in total: two safe schools, two schools that are at your level, and two reach schools.

Of course you can apply to more than that, but in the end you are only going to attend one university and the more schools you apply to, the more time and money you spend. Applying for schools usually starts in the fall. Some universities have an early bird admission and regular admission.

Dates depend on the school, but when you apply for the early deadline, you usually have more of a chance to get into the school. May 1st is the national decision day for the US, but you can decide any time after you get your decision letter from the university.

What you need to apply:

  • Transcripts: Official high school transcripts to show how you did in all of your classes
  • Essay: This is usually 600 words that talks about your goals for college and accomplishments 
  • ACT score: Sent to the school through
  • Letters of Recommendation: Usually from a teacher or counselor
  • Application fee: Regardless if you decide to go to the school or not you have to pay to apply

What to consider:

With thousands of universities to choose from in the US and abroad, there are things you should consider when applying to schools.

  • Location: How far away do you want to be from home? Depending on how far away your college is from your house will impact how frequently you can come home and your mode of transportation.
  • Cost: How are you going to pay? There are many scholarships to take advantage of which high school counselors can help you find. Taking out a loan is also an option. You also have to consider whether to go in or out of state and whether you want to go to a private or public university , because out of state tuition and private schools tend to be much more expensive.
  • Size: There are colleges with as few as a thousand students and others with more than 40,000. Going to a gigantic university isn’t for everyone, so you have to consider your personal preference.
  • Course of study: Some schools are know for a select few majors and other have more of a broad range. Do your research based on what you want to do!

Okay, I’ve made my decision! Now what?

First, don’t forget to officially accept your offer to the specific university. Normally you can do this online, and the school will request your final high school transcript. After choosing the college that you want to attend for the next four years, there are several important things that you need to do to be prepared for the start of fall semester.

  • Housing: Most freshman are required to live in the dorm for a year. Sign up for housing and decide if you want a random roommate or request someone if you already know who you want to live with.
  • Meal Plan: Residence hall contracts often come with a meal plan, and usually there are different options so get familiar with that.
  • Registration: At some point during the summer you should meet with your advisor and pick out courses. Don’t worry about getting books until the first week of classes when you see what you need. It would be a good idea to set up a bank account on campus during this time too.
  • Preparing for dorm life: If you will have a roommate, get in touch with them and decide who will bring the large appliances such as microwave, refrigerator and TV. Take a look at this dorm room checklist from the University of Illinois.

Lots of information in a short blog post!

Since I just went over two years of information in one post, here is a preparing for college checklist recap to wrap it all up.

Junior Year:

  • ACT prep and test
  • College visits and information sessions

Senior Year:

  • Work on applications during the fall
  • Figure out scholarships and financial options
  • Make the final decision by May 1st

Summer before College:

  • Accept your offer
  • Housing and meal plan
  • Registration
  • Prepare for dorm life

Preparing for college takes a lot of time and dedication, but if you follow these steps, in the end all your hard work will pay off.

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Shannon Kelly

Shannon Kelly

Shannon Kelly is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying journalism. She is involved with the student newspaper, new student programing, and greek life on campus. She has a passion for travel, loves animals, and is always up for an adventure. Shannon also enjoys movies, music and fashion.