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6 Steps to Get Ready for College

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Are you in the fall term of your senior year of high school? If so, you may be wondering whether you are on track for college next year. To make sure that you are organized, read through the following checklist — AKA the Summer Action Plan for high school seniors. (And, if you need even more help with getting organized, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Fall Action Plan for High School Seniors coming in September!)

1. Take the ACT or SAT
Hopefully you already did this last spring, but if not, there is still time. Sign up now, and start studying. The next few SAT tests are Nov. 3, 2012, Dec. 1, 2012 and Jan. 26, 2013, but you must register ahead of time. The next few ACT tests are Dec. 8, 2012, Feb. 9, 2012 and April 13, 2013, and like the SAT, you need to register ahead of time.  If you’re not sure which test to take (or whether you need to take both of them), check out Kaplan for a good run down on the ACT vs. SAT.

2. Make a list of colleges
Even if you already know where you want to go to college, it’s a good idea to keep your options open — at least until you have an acceptance letter (and a financial aid award letter) in hand. Start with a 15-20 possibilities, and be sure to include a number of different types of schools — small liberal arts, large research universities, private and public schools, local and long-distance options as well. Request application packets from the schools on your list and review the requirements for admission.

3. Set up college visits.
Get a feel for the different schools on your list by visiting as many of them in person as possible. Don’t rely on your best friend’s opinion — or your impression of the school’s website. The best way to know if you jibe with a particular college is by being there, in the flesh.

4. Prepare for AP Exams
Scoring well on AP exams is an easy way to receive advanced placement — which can save you a bundle by letting you graduate a semester or more early. (For more on how AP classes can help you to save money, see this article on 7 Creative Ways to Pay for College). The summer is the perfect time to start studying for your AP exams.

5. Review your resume & fill in any gaps
University admission offices are interested in your academic achievements, but they also want to know what kind of person you are. One way to assess this is by the activities you are involved in. Consider volunteering this summer or next fall, or explore some new extra curricular activities.

6. Research scholarships and grants
Unless if you have an extremely well-padded 529 Savings Plan for college, financial aid will likely be an important factor in your choice of school. Don’t plan to rely just on federal and university aid, however. Take charge of your own destiny by applying for as many scholarships and private grants as possible. You can learn more about scholarships for the Finder’s new Student Scholarship Search and our weekly Scholarship Announcement post every Friday.

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