Your Action Plan
Some of you have been thinking about college since the sixth grade. Others have barely let college blip across your radar. Guess what? No matter what your style, 11th grade is the perfect time to lay some groundwork, so your senior year isn’t a panic.

Here is a handy checklist to use to begin your college planning:

  1. Double check your transcript for its college prep content. Are you on schedule to rack up the necessary credits before graduation? Colleges and universities typically like to see four years of English, three to four years of math, three to four years of science, three years of social sciences and two years of a foreign language. If you are missing any critical courses, squeeze them in now!

  2. Bump it up a notch. If you’ve never tackled an honors or AP class and you’re up for the challenge, go for it. Admissions officers love to see challenging classes on a transcript. (Bonus: Hit the books hard for the next two years. Colleges tend to look favorably on grades that go “up” over time, not down.)

  3. Take the PSAT test. Known officially as the Preliminary SAT ®/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, the PSAT is a great way to gauge how you do testingwise, while also providing great test-taking experience. Learn more...

    (Bonus: If you do really well, you might qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program.)

    The PSAT is offered in the fall at many high schools. If your school doesn't offer the PSAT, check out this link for schools in your community that do.

  4. Collect opinions about college and universities. Ask family members, friends, teachers and your college counselor to share thoughts about their favorite schools. Then check out the web sites for additional scoop. (Hint: Don’t scratch private schools from your list just because they appear to cost more. Many private colleges and universities offer generous scholarships and financial aid to help students afford it.)

  5. Start developing your list. Ask yourself the following questions:
    • How far do I want to live from home?
    • Do I want to be in a city, suburban neighborhood, small town or the country?
    • Do I want to attend a school with a religious point of view?
    • Do I want to specialize in a subject like engineering?
    • What might my top three majors be?
    • What extra curricular activities are must haves?
    (Hint: the internet has several tools, such as www.collegeboard.com and mycollegeoptions.com, where you can plug in your criteria and get a list of possible college matches.)

  6. Take the ACT and SAT exams. By taking your admission exams this spring, you give yourself time to study, take a prep class and retake for better scores.

  7. It’s summertime! Visit your top three schools. Everybody’s web site looks great. So the only way to know whether the school fits is to see for yourself.

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