Guide to preparing for college admissions

Junior year is a pivotal time in the lives of high school students. Junior year marks a transition to upper classmen, and students begin to ponder their post-high school academic careers around this time as well.

The college preparatory process can seem daunting, particularly if a student does not have a sibling who recently went through the steps and can offer advice. Well-meaning parents may want to share their own experiences, but much has changed since parents were looking ahead to their own college experiences. That doesn’t mean parents can’t offer important assistance, particularly when they learn the ropes of today’s college preparatory process. 

Speak with a guidance counselor to plan courses

Parents and students can meet collectively with a guidance counselor to talk about goals and coursework. Many high schools offer Advanced Placement classes or dual enrollment courses that enable students to earn college credit. 

Discuss extracurricular activities

Colleges and universities do not just look at grade and test scores; they consider the entire applicant. Therefore, high schoolers should dabble in various clubs, organizations and sports to make them more appealing to admissions departments.

Enroll in a test preparation course

Though a growing number of American colleges and universities have abandoned ACT and SAT scores as part of their admissions process, many schools still require those scores. Students can benefit from taking test prep classes either in school or through outside tutoring businesses. Learning strategies for the tests as well as seeing sample questions can remove some of the anxiety associated with the tests. 

Visit schools and attend college fairs

Parents and students should make appointments to visit several college campuses that offer courses students are interested in. Getting one’s name in admissions departments’ databases also opens up students to emails about upcoming events and application deadlines.

Learn about The Common Application

The Princeton Review says most schools will use The Common Application as part of the admissions process. This enables students to enter all of their information and apply to multiple schools using the same account. However, schools will typically have different supplemental essay topics or test score requirements. Essays typically are required to be around 650 words.

Get financial paperwork in order

Applying to college and applying for financial aid (which every student should do regardless of income) are two separate processes. In the United States, students will start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA will help determine eligibility for grants, scholarships, federal work-study, and student loans. The FAFSA requires information taken from federal income tax statements.

Parents can help guide their students further by following up on school transcripts, teacher recommendations and providing application cost fees, which vary from $50 to $100 per school. The road to college may seem confusing, but a few simple strategies can make it easier to navigate. 

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