Getting a Jump Start on College

Going to college can be a lot easier if you know what you need to do. Get a jump on the process by knowing which high school classes to take, activities you should participate in, and people you should talk to. These helpful hints give you a head start on getting into the college or university that's right for you.

Start Early

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You should begin to plan during your freshman year. Often, students find themselves in dilemma in their senior year because they didn't take the right classes or didn't do well on a placement test, and don't have time to make it up.

Take a Rigorous High School Curriculum

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Challenge yourself in high school by taking the right classes. Students who take high-level courses in high school, are more likely to enroll in college and earn a degree.
There are a minimum of requirements for high school graduation, check with your school counselor or district office to find out if they have additional requirements.

Find What You're Passionate About

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Colleges look for students who show long-term commitment and dedication to something they are passionate about. It can be sports, school clubs, or even a hobby. This can also guide what type of higher education you pursue.

Participate in Community Service

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Participate in activities that give back to your school or community. Colleges want well-rounded students. It's sometimes better to have a 3.0 grade point average with four years of volunteering at your local hospital, rather than a 3.5 g.p.a. with no community service.

Take the PSAT!

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Sophomores should definitely take the PSAT. Colleges never see the scores, and you get an assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you prepare for the SAT and the ACT, which does go to colleges. You can even get a test fee waiver if you qualify. Just ask your counselor for details.

Enroll in Summer Enrichment Programs

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Find out early what types of summer programs you can participate in and apply for. Summer enrichment programs are usually fun – you make lots of new friends, and they help you stay sharp academically. Colleges love students who are resourceful and have participated in outside activities.

Know your College Counselor

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They have all the information you need about college, and if they don't, they can get it to you. Get to know them by making appointments to discuss your interests. Ask them to help you choose college prep classes. If you show interest and dedication, your counselor can write you a strong recommendation for college, which can give your college application that extra edge.

Be Serious about School

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A strong academic record is key in getting into college. Take classes that are challenging. Take electives, but not too much. Focus on core subject areas, such as Math, English, Science, Social Studies, and Foreign Languages. During your junior and senior years, you should take classes that show you are advancing, and doing well. Junior year is the time to bring up your grades before you apply to college. Senior year is about keeping up your grades. It's too late to bring up your grades in your senior year.


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Looking for information about colleges can be fun and exciting. Use the internet to get information on schools, scholarships, and other college information. Start collecting materials on schools in which you're interested. Look at what each school's applications look like so you can prepare for their requirements. Check out You can even set up your own personal college planner on their website.

Check to see if the College is Accredited

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Pursuing a college degree entails a significant investment of time, effort, and money. The expectation is that you’ll get a return on that investment, be it career advancement, salary enhancement, or maybe readiness to pursue a more advanced degree. Choosing an accredited college is akin to protecting your investment. If you attend a non-accredited institution and want to transfer to one that is accredited, any credits you’ve earned will not be recognized. Very importantly, only students who attend accredited colleges are eligible to receive federal financial aid.
Check out to see if the college or university that you are interested in is accredited.