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College Prep Tips for High School Juniors


High school students, particularly high school seniors, anxiously anticipate their next step after high school. With the freedom and excitement of college just around the corner, it's no wonder high school seniors often catch a case of "senioritis" as the school year carries on.

With university acceptance letters already in hand, many seniors might be able to relax somewhat and enjoy their waning days of high school with friends. High school juniors, however, can use their third year of high school to set themselves apart from their classmates as well as the competition at other schools. Taking the following tips to heart will not only help kids gain entry into the school of their choice, but possibly help them gain some financial assistance as well.

* Consult a guidance counselor. While smaller high schools might feel more like a tight-knit community in which everyone knows one another, larger high schools can make it difficult for students to connect to the faculty at their disposal. This is especially challenging for a student/guidance counselor relationship. High school students might not have needed their guidance counselor much during their first two years of high school, but a guidance counselor should be sought out once junior year begins. Guidance counselors can help students choose the right courses as well as give advice on which standardized tests certain colleges require for admission. Guidance counselors might also be able to steer kids toward colleges the students might be interested in, helping to get the ball rolling on that process.

* Study for standardized tests. Too many high school juniors feel the SAT or ACT exams are something to be worried about after junior year. While it can be a good approach to take these exams very early in the senior year of high school, students should begin studying for standardized tests no later than junior year of high school. The local bookstore sells exam preparation books and a student's own school might even provide preparatory classes. The more familiar a student gets with the format of the SAT or ACT exams the more comfortable that student is likely to be when it comes time to take the actual test.

High school juniors hoping to gain early admission to their university of choice should consult their guidance counselor as to when the best time is to take the standardized tests that school requires. Early admissions decisions typically come in late fall, so students who have not taken standardized tests in time might not qualify for admission if those test scores are not accessible by the early application deadline.

* Visit schools. High school students often have no idea what to expect from the college experience. With that in mind, it can be very difficult to choose potential schools. High school juniors can remove some of the mystery by visiting schools throughout their third year of high school. On-campus visits and open-house events provide a glimpse of what college life is like at different schools and can begin to give high school students ideas as to what they may or may not like about certain schools.

For high school students who cannot make a campus visit, visit the schools' Web sites and fill out requests for information. When doing so, list potential areas of study that might be of interest and request additional information about those courses.

* Research different loans, grants and scholarship opportunities. High school juniors might be surprised to learn the number of scholarship, loan and grant opportunities available to them. Oftentimes, locally based scholarships and grants have very specific requirements. High school juniors should research such requirements to ensure they have a chance at earning scholarships and grants that could help reduce the increasingly costly burden of attending a college or university.

High school juniors should use the faculty at their disposal to help make the process of preparing for college less difficult.

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