4 Suggestions to Prepare for the College Application Process

September 8, 2015

student reading outside

With schools reopening nationwide, students are adjusting to their new fall routines. However, high school students aspiring to attend college should be proactive in preparing for the upcoming challenges of the college selection and application process. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, a little preparation goes a long way. Being well-prepared will help you stay grounded, focused, and capable of navigating the significant decisions, deadlines, and tests that lie ahead. Here are a few recommendations on what to prioritize when preparing for college:

Crack open a book

Research has indicated that engaging in regular reading enhances vocabulary, comprehension, analytical thinking, concentration, and ultimately leads to higher scores on standardized tests such as the PSAT, SAT, and ACT, which are crucial for college admission. Cultivating this significant habit can commence even before high school with the support of parents, and it will undoubtedly expand the horizons of any student in concrete and quantifiable manners.

Imagine what the future holds

What do you want to do with your adult life? Although this is an immense and overwhelming question, most high schoolers already have an inkling of the subjects and areas of study which excite them the most. Looking ahead a little closer, what would you like to study in college? If for example you’re interested in a career in medicine or engineering, you’ll need to make sure you’ve had the proper college preparatory classes in high school in order to qualify for their college equivalents. You can always change your mind, of course, and certain careers require more advanced planning than others. But you’ll need to think about what kinds of classes you’ll need to take in high school in order to study what you want later on. What kind of college would you like to attend? An enormous university or a small liberal-arts college? Maybe you are more interested in a technical school or an arts conservatory? It’s good to ask yourself these kinds of questions, and if you are a parent gently encourage your child to begin to contemplate these things. Obviously it depends on where you are in the process; the closer you are to applying to college, the more clarity you’ll need to have about your vision.

Stay involved

While it may seem surprising, top colleges are not only interested in students who excel academically. Even prestigious institutions like MIT have a wide range of extracurricular activities, including a ski club, curling club, concert band, and even a glass blowing club, among many others. A vibrant and engaging student life is an essential aspect of any campus community. Your involvement in extracurricular activities will significantly contribute to your overall college application. Whether you participate in sports, play a musical instrument, engage in volunteer work for the homeless, or intern in a field related to your prospective study, such as a science lab or a TV station, it’s crucial to be actively involved in non-academic pursuits. This is an opportunity to explore new interests and expand your horizons. Don’t worry if your extracurriculars appear diverse or varied; it can be valuable for both your future college experience and post-college career to discover what you don’t enjoy. Most importantly, maintain an open mind throughout this process.

Be curious and ask questions

Reach out to the adults in your life who have attended college and pursued careers. Engage in conversations with them to understand why they chose their respective colleges, what motivates them in their professions, and whether they would make any different choices in hindsight. It is also essential to familiarize yourself with your college counselors and make the most of their consistent guidance. Chances are, you know alumni from your high school who are currently enrolled in different colleges. Take the initiative to inquire about their areas of study and their overall experiences at their respective institutions. Approach these individuals with politeness and respect, as most people are enthusiastic about sharing their life experiences, especially as you embark on your own academic journey. Additionally, attending college fairs will provide you with opportunities to converse with representatives from various schools. Be prepared with thoughtful questions when attending these events. Engaging in these conversations and seeking answers will help you gain clarity in shaping your own aspirations and plans for the future.

The Alliance Direct Benefits has a strong commitment to education, members currently attending college, and the college-bound children of its members. The Alliance College Guide is a free online resource detailing all the steps of the selection, application, and financial aid process. There are even handy printable checklists to help guide parents and students through the basic high school timeline and maintain clarity through the sometimes confusing myriad of details and deadlines involved. The Alliance also offers a 3 year scholarship of up to $4000 to members attending full-time 4 year colleges and a 2 year grant program for members attending trade or technical school. For more information, and to become an Alliance member, visit the Alliance Direct Benefits website today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (M-F, 7am-5:30pm Central Time).

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