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Posted on Jan 20, 2012 - 06:00 AM | College Prep | Comments (0)

When our Maura Kastberg appeared on the TV program Schenectady Today, the host seemed shocked that students should really start preparing for college in 8th grade. The days of starting when you’re a junior are long gone.
 
You really do need four years of high school to plan for four years of college.
 
Advantages to Early College Prep
 
By starting college prep early, you can improve your
 
  1. Classes. By starting early, you can structure your classes to meet your career goals and reflect your likely college major. You can focus on the advanced placement classes that will most impress the colleges that interest you. You also won’t leave out or omit classes you might need for college. Too many 10th and 11th graders do this because they didn’t start early, and end up playing a nearly futile game of catch up.
  2. Extracurricular activities. Preparing for college before other students also gives you an advantage in joining clubs and selecting outside activities that can make your college application look better. If they fit your career and academic interests, you’ll look like you’ve been planning for the big event – because you have been. And that impresses college admissions deans and employers.
  3. Campus research. You’ll also have an advantage in researching a wide variety of colleges. You won’t feel rushed and can target your list of applicable colleges to the ones that work best for you. There are more than 4,000 colleges in the United States. You need to find the 6 or 8 that are right for you. Checking them out early, with good materials, is the best way to improve your selection.
  4. Financial aid. Financial aid is more than putting money in the bank, which families might want to start long before 8th grade. It also means being a top student, with all of the above in place – good grades in the right AP classes, impressive extracurricular activities and finding colleges with good financial aid packages. That last one can be difficult, but can be overcome with proper campus research. In other words, starting college prep in 8th or 9th grade not only gets you ready for college, it helps you pay for it!
 
Setting Goals as Part of College Prep
 
“How can I pick classes to meet goals I don’t know yet? I’m not sure if I’m going to college, or what major I’d like to take, or even what career I’m really interested in.”
 
It’s a fair question, and one with a relatively simple solution: take personality tests that determine your interests and abilities. Unfortunately, not a lot of schools offer these tests (the Department of Defense estimates about 15%), but they can be a big push in the right direction when it comes to selecting classes, extracurricular activities and colleges.
 
The real key is knowing your goals. Once you have those in place, putting a plan together to meet them is a whole lot easier!
 
Here’s Maura’s appearance on Schenectady Today:

  
 
 

 
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