student writingThe school year is over for most students but that doesn’t mean education stops. Summer is the perfect time to hone your best subjects and improve on the rest. For many younger students, this means a few review worksheets but for many high school students the focus is on the future. This means preparing for college and exploring their options.

Whether you’re venturing from a traditional classroom or a home school environment, it’s important to know what lies ahead.

Be Prepared

College admission offices tend to look at your high school transcripts, so it’s important to maintain a high Grade Point Average (GPA) through your high school years. Extra curricular activities are an important part of the high school experience and highly valued for admissions officers. This means being a part of your student council, the photography club, football team, or whatever else tickles your fancy. Find something that interests you and be involved.

Think of your transcript as a resume for college. You want to put your best foot forward so schools see your potential.

The Value of Standardized Testing

In addition to high school transcripts, many colleges utilize a standardized test to measure academic merit. In some regions the ACT is preferred while most regions prefer the SAT. Test prep for the ACT should revolve around the four core subjects it covers–Math, Science, English, and Reading. The ACT is measured on a scale of 1 to 36 and only uses correct answers to provide your score.

The SAT prep test will focus largely on vocabulary and is designed to test overall problem solving and general thinking abilities. SAT tests have a required essay section and your score is on a scale of 200 to 800. The ACT has 215 questions while the SAT has 150.

These tests are important factors for admission and financial aid consideration. There are tutor programs and study programs available to help you in your preparedness. You may also choose to practice with friends so you all may benefit. These tests are highly valued and an integral part of preparing for college.

Explore Your Options

There are over 4,000 college options available. It is important to find a school that fits your exact needs. Each school has programs that they specialize in and finding one that caters to your interests is important. Schools like Harvard University and Yale University are ideal for law majors while places like Rhode Island School of Design or University of California Los Angles are better suited for art majors.

Beyond their basic curriculum, it’s important to explore the culture and environment of the schools as well. Consider the school’s location and programs to ensure it is an ideal fit. It is recommended to visit the school before enrolling. Many colleges offer an overnight visit with currently enrolled students who can guide you in the process.

The admissions process for some schools can be very strenuous and it is recommended to enroll in more than one school. Find a few that suit your needs and pursue them. You don’t want put yourself into a situation where you have no where to go because your restricted your options too much.

Taking The Next Step: Financial Aid

Financial aid is available for a vast number of reasons. There are private grants and scholarships that are available to individuals based on specific criteria, such as Native American decent, or coming from a single parent household. Several schools offer scholarships based on academic or athletic merit. Government grants and scholarships are also available, such as Pell Grants or Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants. Aid is also available specifically for military veterans and their spouses.

It’s important to know what you want for your future and to lead yourself in the proper direction. Your decisions today can effect your future so do your research and be prepared. College is a journey to be enjoyed.

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