Guide to Saving for College
Your senior year in high school. With your primary education finished, and your secondary schooling coming to an end, it is time to begin thinking about college. The final year of high school is filled with change and excitement, and with so much happening it may seem difficult to focus on your college career. But now is the time to begin making plans, and putting those plans into action.
Ideally, students intending to continue their education after high school should begin thinking about what college they would like to attend during their junior year. Making your choice early will allow ample time to prepare for all of your college admissions requirements. There are tests to be taken, letters of recommendation to be gathered and admissions applications to be submitted. The final months of high school can be frenetic, but the student who makes the time to plan for college is one step closer to gaining admittance to their college of choice.
The first step in any college career is the choice of school. Consider the colleges and universities that interest you, investigate what they have to offer, and request admissions packages from those that most closely meet your goals. With this short list at hand, you can begin the process to winnowing down your choices until you have decided on the best college for you.
By this point in your high school career, you should have taken the SAT or ACT and received your scores. If for some reason you have not, now is the time to register and get your tests out of the way. These test scores will be necessary for all of your college applications.
Your senior year in high school is also the time to begin considering your financial aid options. Take a hard look at your college and fund, and look for those grants and scholarships that can help you to close and financial gaps. If you will need to take out a student loan, now is the time to start shopping for lenders. Nothing can be worse than finding you have been accepted to the college of your choice, and then realizing you haven't made provision for the money you will need to pay your tuition.
Once you have taken the SAT or ACT you will be sent your test scores. Before you send the results to any potential colleges, review your scores closely and assess whether they truly reflect your best work. Some students test poorly, and can benefit from a second go at the testing process. If you think you can do better on your college boards, plan on taking the test again in the early fall. You will want to present the best possible test score when you make your college applications.
Before submitting any of your college applications, schedule time to meet with your school counselor. Your high school guidance counselor can provide much needed help with, and insight into, the college admissions process. Bring your college applications, and any required submissions, with you to be reviewed with your guidance counselor. He or she can make suggestions that will improve your applications, and can help you maximize your chances of being accepted to the college of your choice. Your guidance counselor can also help you prepare for any admissions interviews that may be required, and can suggest ways in which you may secure much needed financial aid to make your college goals a reality.
Many college admissions boards request that students submit letters of recommendation with their applications. Students need to begin gathering these all important letters early, so they will be at hand and ready to submit before the application deadline. Recommendations can come from trusted teachers, coaches or past and present employers. The people you rely on for letters of recommendation should know you well, and should be able to speak of your character, talents and potential. If the individual writing your letter of recommendation is an alumnus of the university to which you are applying, so much the better.
By November of your senior year you should be in a position to begin submitting your applications. This is the time to put all of your planning into action. Fill out your applications carefully, and review them once or twice to be sure all of the information you have provided is accurate and pertinent. If essays are required, take the time to write – review – and rewrite. A sloppy essay does not a college acceptance make. Finally, gather all of the required portions of your application, the essays, letters of recommendation and test scores, and make your submission before any stated deadline.
Your college career begins with the application process, and that process begins during the final year of high school. Your senior year is filled with change and excitement, and there is much more to come when you are finally accepted to the college or university of your choice.