PREPARING FOR COLLEGE…STEP 1: A REVIEW OF THE YEAR

…Are you ready?

You are just trying to get through the last of these classes, and the endless boredom of your teacher and class schedule, right? Senioritis has been set in for quite some time now and with the nice weather really doesn’t help any either. Keep your chin up my friend. I’m telling you, it will fly by and before you know it, its August 1 and you have some things done and getting ready before leaving or preparing for college.

Chances are you’re probably not even close to being ready or knowing what you need to be ready with. It’s cool, because nobody ever really is! There is so much for you to physically think about, let alone the emotions that tie into this major leap into another dimension of your life, and just trying to make enough money for school.

There’s a lot to consider and I will provide you with some things to prepare for, and start considering with regard to your move away from home. Many of you are staying home, or close to hom.e That makes things a little easier for you. But the next few articles that I post will focus on specific actions that any college aged student should consider or take.

This is technically your last summer as a high school student, there are a number of steps for you to be aware of so you include everything in making the right choice when it comes to choosing the right school your going to attend. So for the next 3-4 posts I have on here I will focus on main areas of COLLEGE PREP 101…your onlyt source to making sure you got it covered when it comes to preparing for your transition from high school to college.

But the first step in this process is for you make sure you’ve covered everything and done everything you needed to up to this point.

Current Seniors:

1. DO YOU KNOW WHAT DEGREE YOUR GOING TO GET? Bachelor’s (4 year degree) Associate’s (2 year degree) Certificates (less than 2 years)

2. PRACTICE REALLY DOES MAKE PERFECT Many applications for college admission and/or financing might require that you submit an essay. Choose a topic and write about it.

Some topic ideas could include: 1). what are my plans in 5 years from now? 2).my biggest challenge and greatest moment has been, or 3). “I’m deserving of acceptance to this college, or for this money because…” Just a few ideas for you, but practice writing, or typing it. Have someone edit it to help with corrections. You can save this and use it as necessary for any or all apps. As long as you make the correct changes and adjustments.

3. ARE YOU TAKING THE CLASSES YOU NEED…AND THE CLASSES YOU WANT? College prep is important. I know you don’t want to have to think about college before college, but you will save so much time and it will be so much more stress-free if you were to get rid of these types of classes in high school. They ARE easier. Talk with your counselors or someone like a teacher that can help you make the right decisions on classes. You need to consider taking these two types of courses to be best prepared for college: Core courses you need for final credit, or AP/CP type courses if you’re that good!

Secondly look into all the classes that are offered in school that pertain the most to your chosen career ideas. Get some idea before you start college and register for classes.

4. SAT/ACT TEST TAKING If this is necessary, take these tests and do the best you can. There might be other subject tests that you could take as part of your admissions procedures into a college. These tests might help you to get out of a class, get into an academically better college, or get you out of some needed credits for an earned degree.  There are free practice tests for ACT and SAT online that you can check out.  If you need to take the test, there are sites throughout the country and year that allow you the opportunity.

5. PARTY!!! I’m just kidding…don’t party too much when you go to visit a college. Visit 3-4 schools and different types if you’re really not sure where you’re going or the type of school you want to attend. Please, don’t go on a college visit only to party. Really check things out. The living conditions, the food the options for shopping and bars, restaurants, etc., check out student union and student services to see what kind of things they do for you as a student. Do you want to join a fraternity or sorority? Check them out. Do you want to be Student Body President? Check out their Student Government. Do you want a job in the community, look around at the places hiring, etc. I’ll soon provide a check list of stuff you can use when visiting schools, depending on our interests.

6. MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!!! Paying for college would be nice right? Some of you are fortunate and may even be able to skip this step, but I’m willing to bet a majority of you could use a little more money, even if it’s a scholarship that you win to apply toward miscellaneous college expenses. Go online to create a profile of yourself and your interests and past accomplishments. This will help you locate ALL the scholarships that you would be eligible for. Apply for as many as you can. Use the essays you practiced with and start filling out applications. Write nice! Computers have taken away our abilities for even simple penmanship…so take your time. Apply for them online as well if you can. Be sure to follow through with every application. Make sure every step is complete. If it is not, it’ll be tossed.

7. APPLICATIONS GALORE! Apply to several colleges if you can. Pick at least 3-4 that you think you have a good chance of getting into and just apply. It doesn’t hurt right? I applied for 8 colleges and was accepted to 4. I had my choice of 1 of 4. Be sure you understand that there are different types of institutions (colleges). Many of them are public, but there are also vocational schools that you can attend for a specific amount of time to earn whatever degree or certification necessary to start working, and then there are community colleges and private colleges. Make sure you have every piece of information you need from each institution. Some websites to visit are www.fastweb.com, www.collegeboard.com, www.fastaid.com, and plenty more at www.keithlipke.com, click here to access a list of miscellaneous scholarship websites, and even the goofy ones.

8. MONEY…AGAIN This is one of the most un-talked about topics from mom and dad when it comes to school. Make sure you’re on top of this. By the time January or February rolls around, you have to start thinking about gathering whatever federal and state tax paperwork from you or your parents so you can have it for financial aid filing. March is usually the month to file. The earlier the better when it comes to government financing. Attend a FAFSA (Free Application for Free Student Aid) meeting that your school or career center provides. They can assist you as well as the school you’re applying to. If you have selected a school, the financial aid office will direct you with filing appropriately. Most of the time you will have to do it all yourself. Visit http://www.fafsa.gov for more specific information. Only use this federal government website for financial information.

9. DEADLINES I know I hate that word too… Submit the FAFSA and scholarships as soon as possible anytime now. You can actually file online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov Submit any other financial aid forms required by the college(s) your student may attend and check to be sure the colleges your student is still seriously considering do not have earlier dates by which any of the financial aid-related forms must be filed.

10. CHECK YOUR MAIL By this time you should be really used to checking and receiving a ton of mail. Sorry about that, but get used to it. You can’t and won’t be able to change it much. It’s a part of adult life. Anyhow when you receive a thick envelope from the Federal Government, it’ll most likely be your SAR (Student Aid Report). This is a document that basically lets you know how much it would cost to attend whatever schools you wrote on your FAFSA form, then it will tell you how much you will get in FREE money (Pell Grant). Then whatever is left for you to pay for. This amount would be your responsibility. But they give you other options like Subsidized or Un-Subsidized Loans. These are loans that are held at low-interest and allow you to pay back starting 6 months AFTER graduation. If you ask 10 people who attended college if they ever had to take out a loan, more than likely 7 out of 10 will say oh yes.

11. MAKING DECISIONS If you have not already done so, you will have to start making some final decisions on which school you really want to attend. Visit these schools once more and take a final breath…then decide. This is one of your first most important decisions you will have to make…congratulations! Make sure it fits your careers choices as well. Remember to use those college visit days…check with Guidance.

12. FOLLOW ALL INSTRUCTIONS The school of your choice will give you all the stuff you need to begin the process of dorm selection, roommate choosing, food options, extracurricular involvement, class selection and schedules, orientation, etc. etc. Make sure you follow all instructions given to you. Life is about following instructions. That’s how this world has worked and the only way it will continue to prosper…if we just follow certain processes of how things are done, it makes life so much simpler. Make sure you pay things on time, turn in forms and applications and whatever other documents needed on time. This all is a part of your reputation and how well people consider you.

13. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE I know you would rather spend money going out…but the reality is every penny you put into the “college city” will benefit you greatly. There are going to be those 2am mad pizza cravings and you’re scraping pennies and dimes from the floor and cushions just to have enough for a small pepperoni. Each of you will have to contribute something toward college. Here’s a great site that helps with college savings tips.

So, now that you’ve reviewed this list, and feel comfortable with where you are, your next step will be to prepare yourself for packing. Well, not actually packing yet. Don’t be nervous. I mean at least preparing a list of things you need to bring and consider for school. Things like roommates, clothes, the little things that many of us never really think of when preparing.

Check out my next post that will highlight a huge list of the necessary items that you should consider bringing. The more you prepare yourself for now, and over the summertime, the better off you’ll be in August. The more prepared you are for college, the more prepared you will be for life. That’s a guarantee from me to you. 🙂

My Success is Your Success,

Keith Lipke

Keith Lipke is a careers and college recruiter, coach, mentor and blogger at     The Hope Chest. His passion is to educate, inspire, and give hope to young people who need it upon their search for the right career and college.

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