Preparing for College
Middle School is the perfect time to begin thinking about your future. Think about the kind of life you want to have or what you want to be. Almost every job requires education after high school, so it is a good idea to start thinking about college now.
Take courses that matter! In addition to your academic core courses of English, Math, History, Science, and Foreign Language, you may want to consider courses that improve your computer and keyboarding skills. Many school districts offer high school courses like Algebra I, Geometry, and Spanish I to 7th and 8th graders. Don't be afraid to tackle harder courses. The more you challenge yourself now, the easier high school will be, and the more opportunities you will create for yourself.
Develop Good Habits
Get into a daily routine of studying...even when you don't have homework! Try to always be reading a book. Reading a chapter a day is a great habit and you will be surprised at how many books you can finish in a year!
Stay Healthy and Alert
Eat breakfast every day and set a regular bedtime. Breakfast and at least 9 hours of sleep will give you the energy to concentrate in your classes and to excel.
Everyone can use a helping hand and an encouraging voice now and then. Talk to your guidance counselor, your favorite teacher, your coach, or anyone who can help you reach your goals.
Early planning and preparation for college is the key to success. If you are in 7th or 8th grade, go online to the Florida Virtual Campus (My Records) and create an electronic College and Career Planner which will help keep you on track for high school graduation, scholarships, and college admission.
Take the Right Courses
Make sure your schedule includes the college preparatory courses you need for college admission. Do not be afraid to take courses that challenge you.
Getting off to a good start early in your academic career sets the pattern for your future success. Give studying your maximum effort! No one has ever said that they studied too much for a test.
Participate in a club or activity. Volunteer in your community. Make a difference! You would be surprised how much impact one person can have on another person or community.
Look at Colleges
Go online and explore college websites. Look at all the options...big schools, small schools, schools nearby, schools faraway. Attend local college fairs with your family. Make a point to talk to friends who come home from college during holidays and breaks.
Stay on Path
Review your electronic College and Career Planner. If you did not start one in middle school, create one online (My Records). Arrange a meeting with your guidance counselor to talk about your progress and future plans.
Maximize Your Summer
Look into jobs and/or internships. Seek extra help in challenging academic areas. Explore special summer programs at your high school or local college. Read, read, read...not just the books on your required summer reading list!
Keep working hard on your academics. Don't be distracted from your primary goal, preparing yourself for college!
Consider becoming a leader in your chosen club or activity. Don't be afraid to branch out and try something new.
Register for the PSAT or PLAN
The PSAT or PLAN are national tests given in the fall to help prepare you for the SAT and ACT that you will be taking in the future for college admission. The results can also be used to identify your academic strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you meet with your counselor to discuss the results.
Use the Web
Start looking at college websites more closely. Imagine yourself going through the admissions process. Find out information on admission requirements and costs. Sign up to receive more information from the schools you like.
Review Your Schedule
Update your College and Career Planner (My Records) and arrange a meeting with your counselor. Make sure you are still on track for high school graduation and college admission. Talk to your guidance counselor about your future coursework and don't be afraid to take on challenging courses.
A Summer of Preparation
Don't get lazy. Search out jobs and internships. Look for special programs at your high school or local colleges. Read, read, and read some more. Increasing your vocabulary will help you more than you know (comprehend, realize, grasp, discern, distinguish...well, you get the point). Go online and begin prepping for the SAT and ACT. Both test companies have online information that will help you prepare. See CollegeBoard.com or ACT.org.
Grades Are Key
Don't lose your academic focus. All your high school grades are important and you should never short change your study time for anything else. Show college admissions officers you are ready for college!
Test and Test Again
When school starts, register to take the PSAT/NMSQT given in October. This test is your shot at national recognition and scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Students who do well on this test are also heavily recruited by all the top schools in the country. In the Spring, register to take the SAT and/or ACT. Some students prefer one test more than the other, so you should try both to see which one fits you best. Registration deadlines are usually one month before the date of the test. Since almost all colleges use your highest test scores for admission, it's a good idea to take the SAT and/or ACT more than once.
Narrow Down Your Choices
Pick your favorite colleges and research their application deadlines. Many colleges want you to apply early in your senior year. You might have to complete applications and essays during the summer to be ready for early fall deadlines!
Review Your Senior Schedule
Update your College and Career Planner (My Records) and make sure you are on track to graduate from high school and satisfy all scholarship and admission requirements. Meet with your guidance counselor to discuss your schedule and your future college plans.
Try to visit as many of your top college choices as you can. If you can't do it physically, do it virtually, by looking at everything you possibly can online. Seek out interesting jobs and internships. Continue reading. Prep for the SAT or ACT. Finish at least a first draft of any college essays that might be required for your chosen schools.
Continue to Work Hard
Your senior year grades are important! Even if you apply for admission before you have earned any senior year grades, they can still be used in the admissions process. If you let your grades slip because of "senioritis" — a disease characterized by laziness and a failure to make good choices – you could jeopardize your college admission. Some schools will not even admit you until they see your first semester senior year grades. Keep your eye on the prize and continue to give your maximum effort.
Get the Score You Want or Need
Continue to take the SAT or ACT until you achieve test scores that match what you think you have learned. Keep in mind that some colleges require minimum subscores on the SAT or ACT. Do not hesitate to retest if you are close to meeting scholarship or honors requirements.
Create an Admissions Calendar
Mark down on a calendar all the important deadlines in the application process for the schools to which you apply. Missing deadlines is a big deal.
Apply for Admission
Make sure you follow the directions given to you by your choice colleges. Most colleges prefer online applications, so be sure to do what your college prefers. Don't forget to send your high school transcript and any other documentation that may be required.
Apply for Financial Aid
Every college requires students wanting financial aid to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Check with your college to see if they require any additional forms. The FAFSA form can be complicated. If you need help, contact the Financial Aid Office of any local college and they will be happy to assist you.
Waiting is the Hard Part
Depending upon the college, you may have to wait several months for an admissions decision. Each college will let you know when you can expect to receive a decision. Mark your calendar with these dates and try not to worry too much.
Take Care of Business
After you collect all your decisions and you decide which college you are going to attend, make sure you follow all the steps requested by your future college. You will most likely need to pay a deposit, apply for on-campus housing, and sign up for orientation. If you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to contact your future college. They are eager to help you make the transition from high school student to college student.