College Admissions Tips

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Jump-Start Your College Planning

Ready, Set…

Have you started your college planning yet? It’s amazing, but decisions you make as early as eighth grade have a huge effect on your college career. They affect how soon you’ll go to college, what type of college you’ll attend, and even whether you’ll go to college at all.

Get Involved

Getting ready for college isn’t all work. Find something you really like doing, then dive into it. Maybe you’re drawn to sports, student council, music, art, etc. You’ll develop skills and show colleges your ability to make a commitment and stick with it.

Take Challenging Courses

Colleges do look at your grades, but they also pay attention to how difficult your courses are. They want to see that you’ve challenged yourself. Plus, if you pursue advanced courses, such as AP®, you may be able to get college credit.

Get Help

Having trouble in a class? Many schools have peer tutors, students in upper grades who’ll help you (for free). Talk to teachers or counselors—let them know you want extra help.


Read at least 30 minutes every day, beyond study and homework. People who read more know more. And when you take PSAT/NMSQT® and SAT® tests, the time you put into reading will really pay off.

Don’t Delay

You’ll take the PSAT/NMSQT as a junior (or even as a sophomore). Most students take the SAT in their junior or senior year. Be sure you’re taking the solid math and other courses that get you ready. Talk to your counselor to make sure you’re on track.

Get the College-Bound Facts

How can you find out about college admissions, work, and campus life? Ask someone who’s done it, such as college students who went to your high school. Get to know your counselors. Ask a career planner at a local college, or a teacher. Do Web research.

Involve Your Family

When parents or guardians haven’t been to college themselves, they may think they can’t help you. That’s not true. They can talk to counselors and help you stay on the right path.

Look for a Mentor

Look for adults who can lend their enthusiasm and help you succeed at your goals. If you’re interested in a particular subject or activity talk to a teacher or leader who knows about it. Find a counselor or teacher you trust to talk about your goals.

Confront Personal Roadblocks

If you have a problem that’s getting in the way of schoolwork, don’t ignore it. Talk to your friends, family, or another adult—parent, coach, nurse, counselor—who may be able to offer advice or help.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

If you expect to go to college later, expect to study now. No one can do it for you. Don’t talk the college talk—”I’ll go to college to get a great career”—without walking the walk.

More Admissions Tips:

1. Research financial aid options.  Attend free financial aid seminars offered throughout your high school or in your community.  Create a profile and start searching for scholarships.

2. Prepare for the SAT or ACT exams. Familiarize yourself with the SAT and ACT by taking sample versions beforehand.  Check out test prep materials (books, prep courses) and online resources.

3. Develop your ideal college profile.  Write down the criteria you want in a college (size, location, majors offered). Use FastWeb’s College Search at to research possible colleges.

4. Review application essay questions.  Check out sample college applications (usually available in your counseling office) to become familiar with the kinds of questions you may encounter.

5. Do community service and volunteer work. Take an active role in the organization and work towards fulfilling that organization’s needs.

6. Attend college fairs. They can help you figure out what kind of college you’re looking for and that college’s admissions requirements. Ask your guidance counselor when a college fair will be in your area.

7. Keep your grades strong. Schools  pay attention to the grades you earn throughout high school.  However, don’t take a course simply to improve your GPA.

8. Maintain relationships with teachers who can write your letters of recommendation. Remember the teachers, coaches and leaders with whom you’ve had a good relationship or taken a course in which you were successful.