Many students wait until their senior year to start looking at colleges, but really you should begin as soon as possible. There are a lot of things to consider if you want to get into the right school, and the sooner you begin the better. Plus, it help keep you motivated to do well in your classes and other areas (such as activities or community service). If you follow this guideline as a high school student you should be able to find a college that is just right for you!
Begin with a game plan in place. Some students find it hard to stay focused their freshmen year since college seems so far away. Don’t fall into this trap. Take your classes seriously and make good grades. You will thank yourself for it later when you easily qualify for state aid (3.0 is required) and find more scholarships open to you than if you had a lower GPA (grade point average).
Start exploring what type of careers you are interested in. You know that you would like to go to college, but what do you want to study? What job do you want to have as an adult? Use resources you already have such as an career assessments you take at school, use your KUDER test results from UB, and check out your local library to see what books or information they may have. There are also several websites you might find useful including: http://www.mynextmove.org/explore/ip - (Interest Profiler that allows you to explore careers) or http://www.iseek.org/careers/slusterSurvey- (take a Career Cluster Survey and it will give you some career matches).
Begin thinking about the type of college you are interested in- start with size of campus (do you want to be a face in the crowd or do you want a more intimate atmosphere), area it is located (in a large city, on the outskirts, or off the beaten path), and how far away from home you want to be (close-by, a few hours, or far away).
Fill out scholarships- it is never too early to begin- start with a fastweb.com account.
Continue to do well in your classes and if you haven’t joined an extracurricular activity yet (besides Upward Bound) now is the time to pick one. You do not need to join a ton of clubs or organizations, but having a few makes you look like a well-rounded student.
If you didn’t explore careers last year then get started (see above). You also need to begin narrowing down your careers to a couple that really seem to speak to you.
Now that you have narrowed your careers down begin looking to see what major you will need to study for those careers. Check out- https://bigfutre.collegeboard.org/explore-careers (this helps you understand how two interests can be linked to a career.).
Start exploring colleges that fall under the answers from last year. Research colleges with different prices ranges. Generally your cheapest schools will be a community college (especially with TN Promise) so see what your local one has to offer. Then, look at a few public colleges (U.T., TN Tech, ETSU, MTSU etc.). Finally, look at a few private colleges (Carson Newman, Lincoln Memorial University, and Tusculum etc.). Some things to look for include- do they have a major you are interested in, and what types of extracurricular activities do they offer (clubs, honor societies, band, sports etc.) that you might be interested in.
Continue applying to scholarships you receive through your Fastweb account. Also check out dosomething.org.
Continue keeping your grades up and consider taking some dual enrollment classes. Having credits you can transfer in at the start of college gives you an automatic leg up. That means you are closer to graduation than you would have been otherwise.
Make sure you volunteer somewhere. It is best to find an activity/place to volunteer that you enjoy and do it several times a year both this year and last. It looks better than small unrelated community service done at various places. It shows you have commitment and care for a certain cause.
You need to get more serious about finding a career and major. If there are several you are considering try and reach out to people who are working in those fields. For example, you thinking about being a teacher or a veterinarian- talk to one and see what it is really like- or even better see if you can job shadow or volunteer.
A great and interactive guide to career paths can be found online at: http://www.learnhowtobecome.org . It provides information about the steps (for example how to become an electrical engineer), schools with the selected career of interest, salary information, projected job growth, and other resources.
Take the ACT (remember you get a voucher from Upward Bound and sometimes one from your school). If you don’t do well (it is best to aim for a 21 of higher so that you will qualify for TN State Aid).
Take your college search to the next level. Narrow it down to around four colleges. One community college, one school that is a stretch (or your dream school), and two that you like and think you can get into.
Participate in Upward Bound Junior Seminar. Attending Eagle Days are especially important from this point forward. The second half of your Junior year we begin preparing you for Senior year by getting things done. We make sure you have an FSA ID (you need it for the FAFSA your Senior year), help you learn more about Factors of Fit (don’t worry- you will soon know what this means if you don’t already) and other important college prep info.
Apply to even more scholarships!! Check out these websites: http://colleges.niche.com/scholarships/ and scholarhsipsexperts.com/ . Also, remember we post scholarships on our blogs and FB page so be sure to check those out as well!!
Continue making good grades, doing community service, participating in a few extracurricular activities and taking dual enrollment (or other challenging classes).
Continue exploring careers and majors if you are still not sure.
Ramp up your college search- now it is all about finding a college that fits you! Try the following websites if you still need some help: bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-search - This website not only allows you to look at colleges, but allows you to compare your fit aspects to different colleges and see if you are “on track”, www.collegeconfidential.com/college_search/- This website allows you to look at colleges and compare fit aspects to different colleges. It also allows you to rank the importance of each factor while then gives you a “% fit” that a college is, www.imfirst.org/ - This website allows you to look at colleges and to collect information such as whether the college offers to fly in students for a college visit or attend special orientations.
Apply to as many scholarships as possible. You are a senior so you can apply to most scholarships. Look online, ask your guidance counselor, check our blog and Facebook page, apply to those given out in senior seminar. Your chances of receiving a scholarship increases when you apply to a lot of them. Even do those that you think look like a lot of work because honestly, most people don’t even try for those.
Visit colleges- if you don’t have the money to visit a school you can contact admissions and see if they have any programs that help students visit. If not you can still visit it virtually at https://www.ecampustours.com and http://www.youvisit.com/ - also take advance of any school campus visit trips.
Meet all TN PROMISE Deadlines- even if you think that you will not be going to a community college- you need to have a back-up plan because life happens, and sometimes plans change.
Listen to your school guidance counselor and your UB advisor. We know it feels like all we do is nag and tell you what to do, but we promise it is only because we know when things need to be completed.
Attend Senior Seminar on Eagle Days- we cover EVERYTHING we possibly can about applying to school, filling out the FAFSA, TN Promise updates, list of scholarships to apply to, how to Find the Fit (the right college for you), information about federal and state aid, what you need to finish/turn in after you pick a school, differences between high school and college, etc.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!