Essential Checklist for Every Aspiring College Student

There is no magical formula for getting into college.  Getting in successfully requires research, proper planning, and effort.  These suggestions are not guaranteed to get you into college, but they will help you to avoid some of the obstacles that many first-time college students face.  Remember that this is only the beginning of your journey.

College Graduation

Don’t be afraid to dream
Decide what you want to do and go for it.  Each step that you take should help you to progress toward your dream.  Do not let anyone stop you from dreaming.  This should serve as motivation each day you are in class.  It’s okay if your direction changes, more students change their major than those that do not.

Plan and research
Research colleges and universities as well as the degrees you are interested in.  Know how much education you need to reach your career dreams.  This will shape your college search process.  Develop a visitation schedule and organize your applications by date.

Do well in high school (or on your GED)
Generally one of the first criteria admissions officers will view is your grade point average (g.p.a.).  While there may be a formula used to evaluate your admittance criteria, g.p.a. is almost always included in that calculation.

Learn how to take a standardized test (SAT or ACT)
It is good to prepare by studying for the SAT or ACT, but the most overlooked aspect is learning how to take the test.  There are many preparation tools offered by Princeton Review or Kaplan, and there are also testing centers such as Sylvan Learning Center that can assist you in preparing as well.  Your high school and local college or university can possibly assist as well.  Some places offer free practice tests.

Get involved in your high school’s  activities
College and university officials know that high school involvement generally translates to college involvement.  A healthy level of involvement can lead to a successful college career.

Get involved in your community
Community service is an asset for almost any application process;  and it will help you foster relationships with community members.  These relationships can lead to references, recommendations, and mentoring partnerships that last a lifetime.

Get connected to a current college student or faculty/staff member (ahead of time if possible)
This will help with acclimating to campus life, and will give you an feel for the campus climate.  This campus ambassador can also help you navigate and locate campus resources.

Visit college campuses
This may be unrealistic if the college or university is a great distance from your home.  If possible, I would encourage you to visit the campuses that either you have applied, or will apply to.  The brochures that you receive and the pictures that you see on the internet are not always representative of the campus.

Know your financial limits
Know how much college you can pay for.  Also make sure you are aware of the different payment options at your school of choice.  Set a budget for your application process.  An application fee is associated with most college applications.  Applying to many colleges can prove costly.  College and university officials do not like losing promising students because of application fees.  Please work with the admissions office to see if a fee waiver or other payment options are available. Determine the amount that you can spend traveling to visit campuses.  Try to stretch your dollars as much as possible.  Start saving now.

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA)
Your income bracket should not determine if you complete the FAFSA.  Completing it makes you eligible for all types of financial aid including, scholarships, grants, and loans.

Improve your writing skills
Many colleges and universities will ask for an essay as a part of your application.  If your essay is difficult to read it will likely not be read.  Be sure to have someone look over all essays you have before you submit them.  Writing will be a part of your college life, regardless of your career choice.

The most exclusionary aspect of the college application process is the absence of an application.  Know the application dates and get your application in early.  Do not exclude yourself from being considered.  You cannot be considered if you do not apply.

Know the application requirements
Do not rule yourself out before you apply.  If your credentials are near those of the required qualifications you may still be considered.  Most institutions will use more than GPA and test score to determine whether to admit you.  Also, some colleges or universities have conditional admittance programs; the number of applications accepted in this manner is small.  Contact your school of interest to see if they have this type of program.

Sit in a college classroom
Consider sitting in a general education class or a foundation class for the degree you are seeking.  This can help reduce academic shock.

Apply for on campus housing
Some colleges and universities require traditional age college students to live on campus. Some four year institutions give you the option to live off and most community colleges do not provide housing.  If you have the opportunity to live on campus please do so.  Studies show that students that live on campus graduate at higher rates and are more satisfied with their living situation.

It is up to you to decide whether college is for you.  Do not let poor parenting, a high school counselor, or friends decide for you.  The world is full of dream killers.  Surround yourself with a supportive team.

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