Planning for college is not a “just add water” type of process. It requires meticulous organization, preparation, determination, and time. The day you enter high school freshman year, college should be in the back of your mind, if you intend to go to. And throughout your freshman year leading up to your junior, every effort you make in your classes should be made on behalf of college planning, again, if you intend to go.
College Planning Road Map – Junior Year
Junior year of high school is the prime college planning starting point. Here’s why:
- Grades – Your academic performance the whole of your junior year into the first semester of your senior year is the most significant for college admissions.
PSAT Testing (Equivalent to PLAN/ACT) – The Preliminary SAT or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is typically taken junior year, although it can be taken earlier. This test, in addition to being a precursor to the SAT, can also determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program
- Financial Aid Investment Options – For parents who wish to start investing for college tuition, the earlier the better. When your child has reached their junior year, it is best to start making low risk maneuvers and clear any capital gains that could affect your perceived income.
“When the child reaches the middle of the junior year in high school, put almost all of the money in low risk investments. It is important to realize any capital gains by December 31 of the junior year in order to not have them count as income during the financial aid need analysis. Note that if the investments are in a 529 college savings plan as opposed to a taxable brokerage account capital gains within the plan do not affect aid eligibility. (Age 15-18)” -FinancialAid.org
- Majors – Start brainstorming a potential major. Do some research on the job market and which industry is in demand. From that, determine careers that require your natural skill set and go from there. Remember, nothing at this point needs to be set in stone.
ACT/SAT – Registration for ACT/SAT begins in May of junior year
- Start creating a list of colleges you might be interested in.
SAT II Exams – Some colleges require SAT II exams which are tests that evaluate a student’s proficiency on a certain subject. Once you have your list of potential colleges, check respective prerequisites. If the school does require an SAT II exam and if it allows you the option, choose your stronger subjects. These tests should be taken in June.
- Advanced Placement Exams – AP exams might be an option to further your chances for admission.
- Filing System – Due to the amount of paperwork involved in the college planning process as well as all the specific deadlines, it is strongly suggested that you create some sort of filing system to aid you in your organization.
- Summer Jobs and Financial Aid – Be careful that the money you earn through a summer job does not reduce the amount of financial aid you might receive, if eligible.
ACT/SAT Preparation – There are books and resources you can use to help in your ACT/SAT preparation, but now is the time to start. It may also be helpful to take mock tests to see how you score. This will give you an idea on subject areas that need more of your focus and study.
- Collect Financial Aid Materials – The summer going into your senior year is the time to collect financial aid packages from your list of colleges.
Resource: "The All-in-One College Guide by Marty Nemko, Ph.D.