High School Freshman Timeline
IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY
It is never too early to start planning for college, especially how to pay for college, so there are several critical activities you can start as soon as you enter high school. Even if you are not yet a high school freshman, it’s never too early to start preparing yourself to pursue post-secondary education.
Challenge yourself academically. Put yourself in the best position to win scholarships by getting and maintain a good GPA! This is a factor that is well within your control during this all important journey, so do what YOU can to insure that you are as competitive as possible when the time comes. Always keep this in the back of your mind – GPA is ALWAYS considered for “full-ride” scholarships! Make certain your GPA is as strong as possible!
GET INVOLVED IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Get involved in community service and extracurricular activities! Be sure to keep a folder, either online or paper, documenting your community service and extracurricular activities. Keep in mind that oftentimes donors are reluctant to give money to students they do not believe are well-rounded, or haven’t learned the value in giving back to their community, even if they have a high GPA. Getting involved, in community service and extracurricular activities, such as clubs, school government, or the school newspaper, can help a candidate who might have not a strong GPA.
Get organized! If you haven’t already, start to create and maintain folders of useful items related to financing your post-secondary education. Along these lines, create a calendar to help you track scholarships now and for the future.
IDENTIFY THOSE WHO MIGHT RECOMMEND YOU LATER
Keep a list of teachers and educators whom you have had as instructors, in addition to their contact information, as you may want to seek a letter of recommendation from them later on. Students frequently overlook this task and often have to scramble at the last moment. So prepare in advance by sending your instructors a note of thanks after the course(s) have ended and let them know you would like to keep in touch. This is not only a considerate gesture, it will also set you apart from the throngs of students who would never consider it even when strongly encouraged to do so.
ATTEND COLLEGE FAIRS
Start to attend college fairs. It is never too early to start thinking about what colleges you might be interested in, so attending college fairs can be an excellent research tool to assist you explore this endeavor! College fairs really help to familiarize yourself with the many college options that will be available to you, so by all means EXPLORE!
Begin researching scholarships. There are so many generous scholarships available to high school freshman that not looking at this point would be a huge mistake. If you start applying at this early stage, by the time you junior and senior year arrive you will a wonderful grasp of the process!
In addition, do not limit yourself to scholarships exclusively offered by a specific college or university, but look for scholarships in areas and fields in which you are interested, as well as any available general scholarships for which you might currently qualify. Be certain to organize the results of your research into an easily accessible format.
RESEARCH PSATs, SATs AND ACTs
Research the PSAT, as well as SAT and ACT college entrance exams! While I have never met a standardized test I liked, for many students they will figure prominently. For those of you that fall into this category, these standardized tests will become important to you quicker than you might imagine, so do yourself a favor and become familiar with them now. Remember, the famous quote, “Forewarned is forearmed,” as it is completely applicable here!
MEET YOUR GUIDANCE COULSELOR
Introduce yourself to your guidance counselor. Your high school counselor may know about specific scholarship opportunities for which you might qualify. Some scholarship applications require guidance counselor verification, so it will truly be helpful when that time comes! Guidance counselors oftentimes process applications for donor organizations, so again, it may very well prove indispensable that they are already familiar with you, your grades and extracurriculars!
TAKE CLASSES RELEVANT TO YOUR GOALS
Take advantage of courses that might be helpful in a chosen career field! If your high school offers, for example, coursework in Advanced Placement (AP) Science, Math, History, or a Foreign Language, or extracurricular Art or Music course, and any of those areas interest you, plan to take those courses, in addition to those necessary for graduation. Do what you can to have a well-rounded high school experience.
ENROLL IN COLLEGE PREPARATORY PROGRAM
Take advantage of pre-college preparatory courses! While successfully completing a pre-college summer preparatory course is no guarantee of subsequent acceptance into a particular college, there is absolutely NO denying that it does convey one all-important fact: it confirms that a student is capable of performing college-level work BEFORE graduating from high school. For that reason alone, this should be a “no-brainer,” if the opportunity to participate in these programs presents itself. However, in addition to this obvious benefit, pre-college courses, on most occasions, permit high school students an opportunity to obtain college credits even before entering college as an undergraduate. Finally (as if any additional benefits need mentioning, given the above, it is conceivable that a high school student that takes advantage of four (4) years of pre-college summer programs can quite possible have taken an entire year of college (or certainly make a noteworthy “dent” in the same) at a significantly reduced costs. Need we say more?