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Working Your Way Through College

Attending college is a full-time job. You will have to work hard, (some of) you will play hard and all of you will sleep little. But before these years of independence come a few of preparation, and taking advantage of them can make attending college much easier. Between college research, school visits, standardized tests and financial aid research, the last two years of high school will go by in a flash. Use this time wisely, and you can avoid a whirlwind of responsibilities and missed opportunities. Before attending college, remember to prepare for the following:

The College Search

You will be spending the next few years of your life in college, so choose wisely. Don’t wait until the last minute to find out that the school you had hoped to attend just decided to tack on a new, exorbitant busing fee, or that it doesn’t offer your major of interest. Begin your college search process during the junior year, and follow up during the following fall semester. Visit schools, and consider academics, size, location, recreational opportunities and price before selecting and attending college.

The Applications

College applications deserve your fullest attention. Survey application requirements at your schools of interest during the spring semester of junior year, and be prepared to meet them well before deadlines approach. Admissions offices can be a mess during the final days of submission. To avoid lost papers and late (a.k.a. automatically disqualified) information, send materials at least one month before they are due. You should also use this time to seek out instructors who know you well and who are willing to write a recommendation for you. Last but not least, remember to visit your college advisor, and make sure that all credit requirements will be met before applying for and attending college.

The Standardized Tests

The drudgery of standardized test preparation is unavoidable. Whether you like it or not, most colleges will place some weight on your standardized test scores. Before taking your exams, borrow an ACT or SAT workbook from the library, or, if you choose to do so, take a standardized test prep class. Take your exam during the spring semester of your junior year. That way, you will have another chance to touch up less-than-perfect scores before applications are due. Attending college is a big deal; prepare accordingly.

The Financial Aid

One of the most overlooked parts of attending college, financial aid is vital to those who need assistance affording a college education. Before taking out thousands in loans, students should submit a FAFSA (applications may be found at FAFSA.ed.gov), complete a free college scholarship search, and visit a school financial aid office to find out about college-based assistance.

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Photo courtesy of Rice University

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