What to do Before You Apply to College | College Made Simple

Most students don’t start thinking about their college applications until they’re filling them out. Big mistake.


The truth is, as soon as you enter high school, it’s time to start thinking about your road map to college — if you plan to get into your favorite school.

Fortunately, there are a number of easy, low-key decisions you can make that will make the application process much easier, once you come to that bridge. Below are the most important five.

1. Student, Know Thyself.

There are only so many years of high school – and, with class requirements what they are, you have very few elective courses to play around with.

That means, the earlier you know what you’d like to study, the more focused your courses can be. This can start as early as freshman year – and, in some cases, it will have to.

If you don’t know what area of study you’d like to focus on, that’s fine – get your core requirements out of the way early. Look over a number of college requirements and see what courses colleges expect you to have which your high school might not. Some possibilities: Foreign Language, Chemistry, or Social Studies. An overview is available here.

Get your requirements out of the way as quickly as possible.

2. Keep A Record.

When you receive that accolade in the freshmen science fair – make a note. It may feel like you’ll never forget – but when you’ve got a thousand things to do to prep for college, it’s easy to miss early rewards or recognition.

Don’t let that happen to you. Every time you are awarded something of significance, make a note in a safe place. Think of it as your proto-resume. That way, when you have to submit a list to colleges – you won’t have to waste nights wracking your brain for everything that’s happened, and hours composing your list, always afraid there’s still something you’re missing.

You’ll already have it – put together, three minutes at a time, over the past several years.

3.  Get Involved Early

Colleges like early involvement. When a high school junior panics and thinks, I don’t have the extracurriculars to rate and suddenly joins five clubs – colleges note that. It seems desperate – and insincere.

If, however, you started your participation early and often, colleges note that too. Even if you decide a club or group isn’t for you and move on to a different one – that’s fine. No college will expect you to know all your interests and favorite activities off the bat. What matters is that you’re an active participant in your extracurricular life – not starting when you college applications loom, but as soon as you get the chance.

4. Explore Your Resources

This is as simple as it sounds. Every few months, take a look through your college guidance office. Peruse your career centers. You don’t need to take anything too seriously – but if you slowly absorb facts over a long stretch of time, you won’t need to cram them all in at once in the months leading up to applications.

What’s more, you may stumble across something that truly inspires you – in which case, you’ve now got a great guideline for what you want to do moving forward.

5. Consider Taking the PSAT Early And Often

You don’t need to be a junior to take the PSAT. Anyone can take it. And, the more often you take the PSAT – or other similar pre-tests – the more familiar you’ll be with the format. And the better you’ll do.

College entrance exams aren’t true measures of intelligence – they aren’t designed to be. They are measures of knowledge. The more you take them – and study for them – the more you’ll learn what areas of knowledge you’ve got covered – and which could stand a bit of improvement.

Not to mention, simply taking the test is a skill like any other. The more practice you’ve got, the better you’ll do.

All in all, it’s quite simple. The more work you can get done ahead of time, the easier your job will be when application time comes around. Make the process easier all around; get started early, and you’ll be able to finish strong.

To your successful college admissions,

Jodi Polster
Education Director, CollegeMadeSimple.com

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.