Get College Ready: College Prep for High School Students

College admissions can seem like a rabbit hole.  While you may know where the entrance is, there are probably some questions regarding the steps you need to take to get through planning successfully.

Sophomore Year:
Time to Begin Thinking About College

 Your actions sophomore year can help you pave the way to success when looking into colleges. The following suggestions are important to emphasize in early college searches and ultimately help you prepare for college early and make some important educational decisions down the road.

Fall GPA Control: Identify weaknesses in your grades and seek tutoring to strengthen problem subjects. AP/Dual Credit: Consider adding AP or Dual Credit courses in subjects you are strong in and enjoy, which can boost your GPA or help you begin earning college credit.
Spring Exam Prep/Practice: Use study tools available through your school to prepare for practice exams. Take the free PSAT and take it seriously. Research Majors and Funding for College -Begin thinking about what you’d like to study in college and do some online research about those majors and the kinds of classes required for the different majors. Researching funding for college is also important to know what financial responsibilities you will have going into it. There are many scholarships, grants, and loans that may be available to you.

Virtual College Campus Tours: It’s never too early to tour a college campus at the convenience of your own home. Many websites offer virtual college tours through services like eCampusTours and CollegeView  and that allow you to tour over a thousand college campuses right online.

Take a video virtual tour of the University of St. Thomas in Houston – a virtual reality campus tour!

Summer Summer Volunteering: Consider volunteer opportunities in your community for a good cause during the summer before junior year. This will build skill sets and provide resume-building experience that colleges and universities find attractive, and will offer you a life changing experience while fostering meaningful relationships.


Junior Year:
A Key Year in College Planning for High School Students

Junior year is a key high school year in the college planning process. Narrowing down your college list, investigating financial aid, and taking standardized tests are on your to-do list. Here’s what we suggest for college prep your junior year of high school:

Fall Formal Exam Prep: Consider taking an SAT preparation course (involves cost) or ask the college counselor at your high school to help you find free resources to study and practice for the formal SAT exam. Exam Practice: Take another practice version of the SAT. The more experience you have practicing the test, the less anxiety will affect your performance on the test.
Spring Official Exam: Focus on taking the official SAT or ACT early, which affords you the opportunity to take it again if you need to raise your score, or to get the exam out of the way, which frees up your time for searching for the right college.

Scholarship Applications: Use to create a profile and receive a list of scholarship for which you are eligible to apply. Submit applications for as many as possible, since any you are awarded will help with college expenses wherever you decide to go.

Summer College Requirements: Choose 10 colleges you are interested in and research the test score and GPA requirements for each of those schools. Visit Schools: Visit as many schools on your “Top 10” list as possible. Check out the respective schools’ social media platforms to get a sense of the various school communities.

Senior Year:
Time to narrow down Your College Choices

Senior year is a good time to start narrowing down your college list. Many students spend a good portion of their senior year doing campus visits, narrowing down their list of college choices, and applying to college.

Fall Refine Top 10 List: By this time you should refine your list of top 10 schools down to five you intend to apply to.  Use the availability of your intended major, quality of education and list of student services as factors to help make your decision. Apply: Review your stats (GPA/Test Scores). Next, complete applications to each of your top five schools and be sure to include a well-written and thoroughly proof-read essay with each application.  Make sure you check the email account you’ve used on your college applications for updates, and make sure your contact information is current.

SATs and ACTs
The number one priority should be taking your SATs and ACTs if you haven’t already. Making sure to prepare well in advance is important. If you have taken the SATs and ACTs, you can review your scores. If you’re not happy with these scores, you can take them again.

Talk to an advisor. Once you’ve completed the SAT and ACT, it’s recommended that you and your parents meet with a college advisor who can give you advice on what to do with your finances, and the types of colleges you should apply for. It’s important to establish expectations about your college search before you commit to visiting colleges.

Spring FAFSA: Begin your FAFSA, which is used to calculate your financial aid at all schools.  Memorize your FAFSA PIN number, which allows you to go back to it to change or complete information.

Scholarship Applications: Continue applying for third-party scholarships, just as you did in your junior year.  The more you apply for the better your chances of earning money.

Summer College Scholarships: Research opportunities for scholarships specific to each of the top five schools and apply for any you may be eligible for.


Are Your Prepared for College? Time to Get Started!

We hope this guide helps you create a road map for college planning whether you’re a high school student or the parent of a high school student. We realize both parents and students have a lot to accomplish throughout the college search and application processes so utilize this college planning timeline guide to help you stay on track. Good luck!

Apply to University of St. Thomas today!

About the Author: StThomasHouston

The University of St. Thomas is the only Catholic, liberal arts university in Houston, Texas. We have 35+ undergraduate majors including STEM, Nursing, Business, Education and Pre-Med. Located in a vibrant urban environment just minutes from downtown and the famed Texas Medical Center, we welcome students of all races and religions to our diverse and collaborative campus.

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