Where To Start

The idea of applying for  a college  or univeristy and financial aid can seem overwhelming. Knowing what is ahead will help you stay on track and feel less stressed. Some students and their families start talking about college/university  options earlier, but by ninth grade, it is time to take the process seriously.

Take The Right Classes

Plan your high school schedule to include four years of English, history, math, science, and a foreign language. Early in your freshman year, a guidance counselor can review your schedule and help make sure you are enrolled in college-preparatory classes.

Get Involved

Colleges and universities like to see well-rounded students who are involved in extracurricular activities such as band, chorus, sports, environmental clubs, drama, math and science teams, also school magazines and newspapers. No one can do everything, so find some activities that really interest you.

Community service is important too. Volunteer if your schedule allows it. A group exists for nearly every interest – helping homeless people, teaching younger kids to read, cleaning up the environment, and staffing food banks are just some options. Churches and other faith-based groups also have community outreach efforts.

Learn About What Is Ahead

Attend colleges/universities fairs in your area and talk to the college/university representatives and current students who are there.

Keep a calendar with dates of colleges/universities fairs, information sessions, test dates, and application deadlines.

Visit local colleges/universities while they are in session. Many colleges and universities hold summer sessions too, and though the campuses may not seem as busy, you may have more time to look around.

Talk to friends and relatives who come home from college/university for the holidays. Ask them what they like and don’t like. Ask them to describe their first few months.

Get familiar with standardized test formats. Doing well on college/university's entrance tests can mean more choices in colleges and qualify you for grants and scholarships. In Tennessee, the most important pre-college exam is the ACT. Public universities and colleges use these test scores to help decide which students to admit and whether they need to take remedial, or catch-up, classes.

Nationally, many competitive private universities require applicants to take the SAT, another entrance exam.

Start learning about financial aid, scholarships, grants, and college/university costs. This is an important subject. Talk to your parents about how to pay for college/university and work on a plan together.