Underclassmen: Five College “Attack” Strategies

When it comes to the college application process, it’s best to start with baby steps. Here are five crucial first steps to get you started.
Crystal Nikish's avatar by Crystal Nikish, PrepMe Student Advisor. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in English and a minor in Education Theory and Policy. Her favorite food is chocolate.

When it comes to the college application process, it’s best to start with baby steps. The first step is gathering intel to help you decide. What kind of location would you like? Which majors might you want to explore? How can you budget for tuition, fees, and other living expenses? Here are five crucial first steps to get you started.

Talk to folks in the know

Parents, older siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles—anyone who’s been to college can be a good source of advice. If you’ll be the first one in your family to attend college, ask instead about relatives’ careers and how they got started in their fields of work. It’s best to involve your family earlier in the process so that you can seek their advice later on.

Make friends with your counselor

He or she can recommend schools and make sure you’re taking the right classes to meet entrance requirements. Getting to know your counselor now will also help ensure a smooth senior year. Ask about local scholarships, grants, and after-school or summer activities to get involved in now.

Be a teachers’ pet

Seriously, your teachers know you pretty well by now, and they fall into that category of people who have been to college and know what it’s like to search, apply, and attend. Be sure to ask if they think you should be taking harder or more diverse classes to help with your application down the line. Buddying up now might also help you lock down a recommendation letter when the time comes.

Attend college fairs

Behind every table at a college fair is an expert who can answer all of your questions about a particular school. College fairs give you the chance to interact with representatives from a wide range of schools. Not only will you gather information about a lot of schools at once, but you’ll also receive free swag!

Go online

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for you to get a feel for a particular school, so “Like” or “Follow” schools that you are interested in to get more information. Also, sites like CollegeConfidential.com give you access to expert college advice. All of these sites give you the chance to see what other students are saying and allow you to ask questions of your own.

One final thing to remember: While it’s important to talk to a bunch of different people, it’s ultimately your life, so don’t let anyone talk you into or out of something that you really have your heart set on. Once you have a good idea of what you want to do or where you want to go, it’s only a matter of filling out the applications.

filed under College Planning, Careers
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