When should I start preparing for college?

You should start thinking about college as soon as middle school. Prepare your high school courses to meet college requirements, and think about where you might want to go to school. You’ll have a better idea of the requirements you need to get in, and what you need to accomplish in high school to achieve your goals.

Who should I ask for advice?

Your parents are a great source for advice and real experience, and they know you best. Ask your teachers and coaches for advice on college – it’s their job to help you succeed. If you can’t talk with your school counselor, check your local community college or community center and meet with the counselors there. Connect with family, friends or neighbors who have been to college and ask them how they got there.

What kind of classes should I be taking in high school?

Find out what classes you need to meet entrance requirements and sign up for them now. Visit our Colleges & Universities page to see the different requirements for each type of school. Most colleges require three to four years of math, English, science and social studies. Plus, most want at least two years of the same foreign language.

Do I need to be in honors courses to get into college?

In general, most colleges prefer students who challenge themselves with harder courses, even if they earn only average grades, than those who take easier courses just to get higher grades. Honors and Advanced Placement courses are the gold standard for colleges and carry much more weight than other courses in working out your grade point average. Also, consider courses in computer science (or even classes that require you to use computers in researching or completing projects) to give you the skills you need to make the grade at college.

What are some things I need to consider when looking for a school?

Finding out what kind of school is the best match for you and your career goals is an important step. Whether you choose a public, private, community, technical, trade or online college, make sure it’s the best match for you. Do you want to attend a big university with more choices of studies and social activities, but also larger lecture classes? Or would you like fewer choices but more personal attention and a better chance to stand out? Attending a local college versus boarding out of state – what’s better? It depends. For some, residence hall life is an important part of the college experience, but commuting from home is less expensive. Visiting the campus before committing may help you make the decision. You can see what the school is like while students are there.

How do I select a major?

Figuring out what you like doing most, plus what you’re best at, can point to the careers you should consider and what majors will help you reach your career goal.

Should I have extracurricular activities?

Yes. In addition to looking great on college applications, getting into extracurricular activities outside of class – band, science club, the school newspaper, drama or volunteering – can help you discover what your real interests are and where you’re heading.

Can I afford college?

If you think you can’t afford college, think again. There’s a lot of financial aid available. Our Financial Aid page has many resources to teach you more about different forms of financial aid and tools to see what types you qualify for.

Who receives financial aid?

Many more people than you might think. Financial aid is awarded based on need or merit – academic achievement, athletics and other talents. But you have to apply for aid to find out.

What are the different types of financial aid? 

Grants, scholarships, work-study to student loans – there are a lot of different types of financial aid out there. You need to find out which kind or combination works best for your needs.

Where should I look for financial aid?

Colleges expect you and your parents to pay what you can, but schools, state and federal governments, and private businesses and organizations are also great sources for financial aid. Our Financial Aid page has a list of resources to help you better understand and find grant, loan and scholarship information.

Is financial aid free money? 

Not all. Most financial aid packages are a mixture of grants and scholarships that don’t need to be paid back and loans that do, but not until after you graduate from college.

How do I apply for financial aid?

Your school guidance counselor can help you, including how to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which makes you a candidate for all federal student aid. For help online, go to http://www.collegegoalsundayusa.org/.

Do deadlines matter? 

Absolutely. If you sending in your college applications before the deadline, you have a better chance of being accepted before enrollment fills up. Also, college financial aid goes fast. The earlier you submit your FAFSA application and all of the other information that a college asks for, the sooner you’ll receive your financial aid package.