March 30, 2021
Like my grown-ups, I’m a planner. Can you give me some tips for how I can be ready to survive college preparation in high school?
College is just around the corner. But don’t stress. You’ll get there when you get there, and I have some helpful tips for you:
READ! Age 5 is a great time to kick up your reading skills. Read to your grown-ups and ask them to read to you!
TRY NEW THINGS. When you can, try out new and different activities. Not only will this be super fun, but it will also help you to develop skills and interests that can inform your future career path. Colleges and universities love to see community involvement, volunteerism, and athletic involvement as part of your college application packet.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO STUDY? As you get older, you’ll find that there will be parts of going to school that you love. Pay attention to what you enjoy the most, this may help you to pick out a college major (the area that you study the most when you go to college).
TAKE COLLEGE PREP CLASSES. Many colleges expect you to take four years of high school math, science, English, and social studies. Beef up your academic profile by taking a foreign language, art, music, or other enrichment courses. Taking Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or honors courses can elevate your academic experience in high school AND may earn you credits for college. Dual enrollment courses with your local college or university can also help you get a head start on earning college credit. *Insider tip: this means that you won’t have to pay for those credits later when you’re in college … maybe you can earn enough credits in high school to graduate from college a year (or two) early. That can be a lot of money saved!
VISIT COLLEGES. In 10th and 11th grade, start visiting college campuses when school is in session and bustling with students. Ask students around campus what they love about the college experience. Schedule an official campus visit with the office of admissions, which can include a campus tour with a student, an interview with an admissions counselor, and may also include appointments with faculty. I recommend stopping for lunch at the dining hall. Do they offer foods that you like? All you can eat pizza and ice cream (that’s my criteria)? The college visit can help clarify what type of atmosphere you want for learning, living, and community engagement.
NARROW YOUR LIST. Selecting a college doesn’t have to be overwhelming and narrowing the list of 3,500 colleges and universities in the US down to 5-10 will make your decision much more manageable. Search tools like this one found at https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-search can help you filter on things like major, school size, location, and cost. Look at your academic profile (how you’ve done in school) and compare it against the admissions criteria of your top schools. This will be an indicator of your ability to get into your preferred college.
APPLY EARLY. Early decision, early action, or regular admission…get your essays written and your applications prepared and submitted early. It’s a huge relief to get it done and applying early lets your school(s) of choice know that you are interested.
THINK ABOUT PAYING FOR COLLEGE. Research the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by visiting studentaid.gov and understand how Federal Student Aid may fit into your college funding plan. The FAFSA doesn’t always mean loans. Many schools require a completed FAFSA for certain scholarships and work-study opportunities. Apply for every scholarship you can, including small-dollar scholarships in your local community. There are many scholarship search tools like this one https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search that can help you find additional money.
OF COURSE, KEEP SAVING. Your 529 plan can help relieve the financial anxiety of pursuing your dream college. Even small amounts can make a big difference in the long run. Remember – every dollar saved now is two dollars you don’t have to borrow and pay back with interest later.
Good job thinking about the future. When you work hard and prepare, both you and your dreams will take flight!
Love from Alaska,
About the author:
Dash is an important member of the team at the Education Trust of Alaska as the top dog in savings outreach. Dash is often seen representing the Alaska 529 at a variety of community events and activities. He strives to represent the Plan with the same pawsitive attitude he has for dog mushing.