Some parents begin saving for their children’s college education as soon as they are born. Some parents, despite doing the best they can, aren’t ever able to contribute. Regardless of the situation, college is expensive. If you’re a teen who wants to go to college, there are some things you can do to get ready while you’re still in high school.

Start College Planning Early

Experts recommend students start planning toward college from the very first day of high school. Meet with academic advisors before the year begins to find out what your school offers to help you get the most out of your high school years. Many high schools offer dual credit classes where students can concurrently obtain high school and college level credit.

Some high schools offer career pathways or tracks in areas like business, social and human services, agriculture and the arts. If a student knows their areas of interest, they can start freshman year on a pathway that will benefit them for a lifetime and make their college and scholarship applications more attractive.

Start taking practice tests to get ready for the PSAT by sophomore year. If you score high on the SAT, you’re much more likely into getting into the college of your choice.

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Stay Dedicated to Your Goal of Attending College

It’s possible to have fun and be with your friends while still doing well in school, but you have to take it seriously. When you have assigned reading, put away social media and give it all your focus. Develop the habit of studying regularly instead of cramming for tests. You’ll do better, stress less and be more able to retrieve that information when you need it again in college.

Take Advanced Classes in High School

In the past, students had a few years of “getting used to” the academic pace of high school before they were advised to take hard classes. Counselors now recommend students push themselves from the very beginning. Take advanced level AP and honors classes as soon as you can to build an impressive college resume.

Get Involved in Your Community & Volunteer

Seek out ways to volunteer in areas that interest you. Take leadership roles at volunteer events. Colleges are now looking at all aspects of a student’s high school years including participation in clubs, social groups and volunteering in their community.

Not only can you improve your high school resume, but you can begin to grow your professional network and discover new potential career options.

It’s Never Too Early to Explore Your Options for a College or Career

Visit colleges you think you might be interested in. Attend career fairs. Look for summer and after school jobs in the field you think you might want to pursue. If you want to be a veterinarian, for example, you might apply for a summer job walking pets and cleaning out cages at a veterinary office near you.

Research Funding Early

Start researching ways to pay for college. With rising tuition, many students now rely on financial aid to fill in the financial gaps and make it possible to further their education while reducing college debt. Research all options available to you and your family. Financial planning is essential. Depending on your circumstances you may be eligible for loans, grants, scholarships, or employment opportunities offered to college students. Grants and scholarships are typically handed out based on certain eligibilities like maintaining a high GPA or playing sports.

High school is the time to prepare for your future. Start planning for college now. You’ll be glad you did.

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