During your junior year of high school, you have classes to take, activities to pursue, and a social life, too. With all of those commitments, it can be easy to think that graduation and college are a long way off. However, it will not be long before you are leaving high school and embarking on your years of higher education. To increase the odds of getting into the school of your choice, the time to start preparing is now. When you are diligent about planning and applying, you can confidently move forward with this next stage of your life.

Making a List of Prospective Schools

There are thousands of institutions that offer degree programs, and you cannot, nor will you want to, apply to all of them. One of the most important things you need to do is narrow down your options to a manageable number of schools to which you will apply. In addition, counselors recommend separating this list into three categories: schools where you are very likely to be admitted, schools that you are targeting for admission and have a fair chance of getting into, and schools that you would like to attend but are a bit of a reach for you given your finances and/or grades. Many resources exist to help you create a list of prospective schools that will help you find the institutions that you most want to apply to and attend.

Financial Concerns

One of the greatest concerns that you might have is the cost of a degree program at an accredited school. The cost of college tuition is increasing every year, but fortunately, there are options to make school more affordable for you. You will definitely want to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you are attending a U.S. school, as schools use the information you provide on that form to determine your eligibility for grants and loans. Start applying for private grants and scholarships as soon as possible, so you can get the most money possible for your education. Also, start planning with your parents now to figure out how you will use any current or prospective savings for your education.

Visiting Colleges

Choosing a school is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life, so you want to make sure you pick an institution that will be a good fit for you. It is recommended that you visit at least your top two or three choices before you make your final decision. On these visits, there are key things you will want to look for and essential questions you will want to ask. These days, it is even possible to do a virtual visit to a school online before you make the commitment to go in person or as an alternative to an in-person visit.

Applying and Tests

Each college application must be handled with care to maximize your chances of getting in. Today, many institutions accept the Common Application, a Web-based higher education application that can be automatically submitted to several schools of your choosing. Even so, you must know how to write good essays, secure the right recommendation letters, and much more in order to stand out when you use the Common Application or fill out an institution-specific application. Do not forget to also schedule your SAT or ACT exams and to prepare well for them in order to meet admission standards.

Admission Processes and Trends

Over the years, what schools are looking for in applicants to their degree programs has changed. If you do not know the admission processes and trends, you may end up preparing for college poorly. Does class rank matter? What about extracurricular activities? The only way to answer these questions and figure out what is really important in applying to a school is to keep up on these admission trends and make sure you’re aware of the requirements for the specific schools you’re interested in.

General Preparation

There are a lot of specific steps to take to prepare for college applications and admission. At the same time, there are many other things to keep in mind as you ready yourself for life during and after college. Many online resources will help you schedule your time and focus on what you need to focus on in high school in order to have higher education success. Make use of these resources for the best experience possible after graduation.