What ultimately determines college readiness? There’s not a single answer, or rather one correct answer; it’s a combination of things. So what is your optimal combination of skills, experiences and academic exposure that will benefit your upcoming college career?
Reality Changers helps at-risk youth in the San Diego area attain higher educational opportunities. Having a proper structure and framework in place enables our mentorship program to create college readiness skills; here are some of the lessons we’ve learned through the years. They might apply to your situation, too!
Actions to Help You Find College Planning Resources
College planning for high school students starts with the right mindset – and also knowing how to tap into the best resources available. Before exploring which college planning tools and resources are right for you, remember to:
- Ask Uncle Sam. Financial help is a huge part of your college planning resources. Federal student aid can help you determine which loans, scholarships and other financial aid is available. One of the most common college readiness activities for high school students involves filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. For many high school students, their college planning resources start with FAFSA, simply because the financial part of the college equation determines how other planning resources will come into play.
- Research the best colleges. Annual rankings of the top academic institutions in the United States can help you identify which college or university is the best fit for your major, your lifestyle and even your budget. S. News and World Report releases a yearly list of the best colleges, but there are others, too. If you’re staying close to home for college, find a ranking of the top regional schools – who knows, one of the nation’s best colleges might be a short drive from home!
- Focus on a major. While many college freshmen enroll in general studies programs to find out what they want to major in, it’s beneficial to have a plan before you start college. High school guidance counselors, parents (and other relatives) and local professionals are excellent resources to tap into. Mentorship programs like Reality Changers can also help you choose a career path before your first year. College readiness is something that’s never too early to work on!
College Planning for High School Students – Steps to Take Now
Now that you have a game plan in place, it’s time to start looking at different college planning resources available. To prepare for life beyond high school, you can apply for different grants, scholarships and aid available to you, but that’s just the start!
Smart college planning for high school students often starts much earlier than 11th or 12th grade; in fact, many middle school students are starting to think about (and implement) college planning a full five years before their freshman year of college.
Here are a few college planning resources worth your consideration:
- Start a 529 plan. It’s never too late to start investing in your future. This college savings program creates tax-sheltered savings, which can be used to cover most college expenses: tuition, textbooks, housing, meals and more. Check out this handy guide for more information. If your family is financially challenged and a 529 plan isn’t an option, finding a mentorship program with scholarships and grants (like Reality Changers) is a great alternative.
- Explore student aid options. The U.S. federal government has scholarships and grants that can help offset college expenses. As we’ve already mentioned, the first step is filling out a FAFSA form. You can find out more on the Federal Student Aid website.
- Prepare for the entrance exams. The ACT and SAT are two of the most commonly used entry exams for colleges and universities. College planning for middle school students involves getting a head start on exam preparation. The College Board is a great place to learn more about the SAT, and you can learn more about the ACT by visiting their website.
Thanks for visiting Reality Changers. To learn more about how our college planning resources and mentorship opportunities have made a difference in San Diego, please visit Our Story today.