Start the Year Right! Fall Tips for College Planning

by | Sep 5, 2017

School’s in session in much of the country now that Labor Day is past us. For kids, it’s time to get back into the routines of the school year: homework, extracurriculars, sports, and perhaps most important, friends! We hope you enjoy the beginning of this new year.

Welcome to a new year of high school! As you get started on the new year, here are some tips to help you start it right. Whichever year of high school you’re in, make sure you’re paying attention to the things that will help you with college planning. Here, by year, is a list of fall tips for college planning.

Freshman Year Fall Tips for College Planning

 

 

Understand graduation requirements for your high school. Each school and district has specific requirements for graduation – courses, community service, PE, sports. Make sure you understand them. Ask your school counselor what these are, so you can plan your courses over four years.
Understand course requirements for colleges you’re considering. Most state universities and selective private universities have specific requirements for courses you need to have taken to attend. For example, you might need three years of science to attend, even if your high school only requires two. Develop a list of schools early, and make sure you understand their requirements. A site like LifeLaunchr can help with these requirements.
Take interest and personality tests to find potential careers and majors. One interest test that is widely used is the Holland Interest inventory. The LifeLaunchr interest test uses this model and takes only a few minutes to complete. It can be a great resource to help students and families find colleges, majors, and careers that are a good fit.

 

Sophomore Year Fall Tips for College Planning

 

 

Take personality and interests tests Kids personalities and interests can change a lot during the high school years, so it’s important to keep this up-to-date.  Take the LifeLaunchr interest test again so you can update your list of colleges and majors.LifeLaunchr interest test again so you can update your list of colleges and majors.
Start applying for scholarships One of the biggest myths about scholarships is that they are only for seniors. In fact, there are scholarships for students in each year of high school. Start early, so you can start putting away money you can use for college. Whether you have financial need or not, you can qualify for, and win, scholarships! Take a minute to fill out your scholarship profile on LifeLaunchr, and you can start getting notifications about scholarships tailored to you.
Make sure you’re taking challenging courses If your school offers AP, honors, or IB curricula, make sure you’re taking those courses where you can. Don’t overload yourself and make life miserable. But do take a challenging course load. Switch if possible where you chose a course that’s not appropriate.
Take the PSAT The PSAT10 is the practice SAT for sophomores.  Take this test in fall of sophomore year. Don’t spend time preparing. It’s meant to be taken without preparation, and studying for them isn’t a productive use of time.

Junior Year Fall Tips for College Planning

 

 

Take personality and interests tests Even if you’ve already taken these tests, make sure you take them each year. Students change a lot during high school, so it’s important to keep this up-to-date. The LifeLaunchr Interest test can be a good resource to help you find majors, careers, and colleges.
Start applying for scholarships If you didn’t already start your scholarship search in freshman or sophomore year, start now! College is extremely expensive, and can cost between $80,000 and $120,000 after financial aid. So winning money for college is critical. Whether you have financial need or not, you can qualify for, and win, scholarships! The LifeLaunchr scholarship profile will help you get matched with scholarships tailored to you.
Check your college financial plan Your college financial aid application will depend on this year’s tax information, so make sure you’ve got your financial ducks in a row. Whether that means restricting your finances to make sure you maximize aid, or thinking through tax filing arrangements, this is the time to do it. The Department of Education has a helpful tool to estimate your cost of college, so use it and start developing a plan now.
Take the PSAT or PLAN The PSAT is the practice SAT, and the PLAN is the ACT equivalent. Take these tests in fall of junior year, even if you already took them.

Senior Year Fall Tips for College Planning

 

 

Finish your essays This is the application crunch, so you’ll be very busy writing al your essays. If you’ve done some work over the summer, you’ll have simplified things for yourself. But make sure you get help with the process. Experienced essay coaches can really help!
Take the SAT or ACT again Most schools super-score standardized test results, or allow you to turn in only your best score. So take the tests one more time: you have a chance to improve your score.
Ask for recommendations and transcripts Speak to your counselor and teachers about writing recommendations, and make sure they have sufficient lead-time to do the recommendations. And make sure you request transcripts.
Make sure your applications are finished and turned in on time. A service like LifeLaunchr can help you stay abreast of all the myriad deadlines. Or you can go to the CommonApp or state university pages, and keep track of them. Whichever way you do it, make sure you turn in your applications, and all supporting documents, on time.
Fill out the FAFSA The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a critical part of college applications. Make sure it’s filled in in time. Some of the questions are tricky, so if you need help, ask a professional. The new FAFSA opens October 1 and uses last year’s tax information, so do it as soon as you can.
Apply for scholarships Many scholarship deadlines are in the fall and winter of senior year: your counselors at schools can help you find them. Or you can use a resource like LifeLaunchr to keep track of them and apply.

We hope these tips help. Have a great year ahead!

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Venkates Swaminathan

Venkates Swaminathan

Venkates Swaminathan (Swami) is the founder and CEO of LifeLaunchr, the world's first virtual college admissions coaching platform, and a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Swami has been an executive in the education and technology industries for over 25 years. He has an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois, and a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. He is the father of a child in college, and in his spare time, he is a jazz and Indian classical singer and pianist.

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