Feb. 11, 2002
Within limits, the sooner you start planning for college, the better off you'll be. Unfortunately, many students and their families don't begin making college plans until after the senior high school year has begun. This leads to much rushing around, confusion, and--worst of all--wrong choices.
In the best of all possible worlds, the foundation of college planning should begin in ninth or tenth grade. The precise college or university doesn't have to be selected at this early stage. Some students, however, may have an idealistic vision of one particular school upon which they have set their sights. This is fine, but the best way to approach the beginnings of college planning is with an open mind. You can have a favorite school picked out early, but be open to new information about the many fine schools available.
The key to planning for college is the high school schedule. Some students who are unsure of their plans tend to schedule easier courses rather than take challenging ones that will prove beneficial at college application time. This is where parents, students, and high school counselors should spend serious time together. Some colleges look only at the tenth through twelfth grade academic record. Others look at grades nine through twelve.
By ninth grade, a plan should emerge that determines a student's path through high school in an honors, academic, tech-prep, or other such curriculum. It's generally always possible to move down in curriculum level if necessary. If you are looking to go on to college, however, it will always be to your advantage to be in the most challenging curriculum possible. Colleges and universities will look to your performance in a quality schedule as the number one evaluation criterion. That's why it's smart to get on the right track early.
If you are a senior and haven't made any college plans yet, it's very important for you to take stock of your situation now. Sit down with your family and high school counselor as soon as possible and take an inventory of what you've done and where you are with your senior year. It's not too late to make some quality upgrades to your schedule. Don't panic. There are a number of options open to you. This is where your counselor can be a big help.
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