How to Prepare for College

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Attending college is a huge milestone and an exciting time in your life. However, the buildup to college and everything that happens in between can be both overwhelming and exciting. Traditionally, high school students go straight to college after graduating, finding higher education beneficial for career preparation and qualifying for internship programs and jobs.

Suppose you do decide to attend college — congratulations on your decision! Chances are you're trying to figure out how to navigate the college admission process and what to expect on campus. College is an important investment for your future, and you may wonder how to prepare for college. has you covered; in this guide, we discuss college preparation and more.

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Preparing for college

  1. How does high school prepare you for college?
  2. How to prepare for college in high school
  3. How to prepare for college applications
  4. How to prepare for college classes
  5. How to prepare for college life
  6. How to mentally prepare for college

How does high school prepare you for college?

Although college is different from high school, many of the courses and activities you partake in during high school serve as college preparation. Learning how to balance your academic success with extracurricular activities in high school helps prepare you for balancing college and personal life.

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a student early on will keep you on top of your classes. In high school, you've already had to create your own schedule and choose classes, which is your college responsibility. You will have to be aware of course prerequisites and keep track of degree requirements.

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High school teaches you how to research and make informed decisions based on your interests and career path, similar to how you'll navigate college.

How to prepare for college in high school

You may not acquire personal finance skills in high school, and that's okay. Financial literacy is an essential lesson that college students learn, especially if they are responsible for federal student aid and loans. High school students can prepare for college by creating a personal budget.

Many college students receive financial aid to attend college. Some students may need additional assistance than provided by their financial aid package. High school students should look into scholarship programs early on to help alleviate the cost of college and learn about the options they have to finance their degrees.

Students can begin looking for scholarships on at the age of 14. The Federal Student Aid office recommends that students apply for scholarships the summer after their junior year of high school. Scholarship applications might require recommendations and a personal essay, so build relationships with your teachers and stay ahead of deadlines.

Another way to get ready for college is learning how to interview. Unless you work a part-time job, you likely haven't had an interview. Learning how to market yourself and speak to your strengths is a valuable skill to use in college and beyond the classroom.

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How to prepare for college applications

There are a ton of resources to help prepare you for college applications. Speaking with a school counselor as early as freshman year can help you plan for the application process. Your counselor can also help soothe any anxieties about the college admissions process.

For example, if you're stuck on what to major in but have always been interested in computers, the counselor might suggest you pursue a computer science degree. Don't be afraid to ask questions and voice concerns about anything related to your application, college majors, entrance exams, etc.

Many colleges and universities will require an ACT or SAT score as part of the application; these will function as college entrance exams. If you have test anxiety or don't perform well on standardized tests, test prep classes help equip you. Check out College Board to see what resources are available.

If you're unsatisfied with your original score, you can take the ACT or SAT multiple times and choose which scores to send to colleges. Most students take one or both of these tests in their junior year. However, high school seniors can still take these tests and send their scores. Furthermore, many schools do not require that applicants take the SAT, so be sure to research your schools of choice.

You may also speak with college admissions counselors at the schools you're applying to grasp their ideal candidate better. School counselors can answer any questions about your college application and the university. Contact school counselors if you're unsure about any college requirements or want to learn about available scholarships.

How to prepare for college classes

To prepare for the rigor of college classes, it's recommended that high school students enroll in challenging classes that require time management and strong studying skills to prep for college. If you're a student who works a part-time job, has a rigorous course load, and plays a sport, you already have the right idea!

Most high schools offer (AP) Advanced Placement courses, but not every school provides the same Advanced Placement courses. If your school doesn't have AP classes, you may be able to take honors or IB classes for more academic rigor to brace for college courses. Some Advanced Placement courses offer college credit and placement to help you save money and possibly graduate early. Additionally, AP courses will brace you for the challenging classes you'll be taking your freshman year and help you stand out on your college applications.

A college education is bound to challenge you to bolster your career, so use the following tips to help you with your increased workload.

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How to prepare for college life

One way that students start preparing for college life is by visiting campus! Not only will you feel more at ease if you're familiar with the buildings and dorms, but visiting campuses at schools you've applied to or were accepted to can help you envision what life will look like for the next four years.

Once on campus, you can learn more about student life, dorms, and extracurricular activities students participate in. If you're interested, there's even the possibility of sitting in on a class to get a first-person perspective of how to better equip yourself for college coursework.

Research is your friend! Hundreds of YouTube videos and blogs are solely dedicated to the college experience and college preparation, as well as campus tours if you're unable to travel. The internet has become a great place to access everything related to college — you can even find videos about the financial aid process, how to prep for an interview, and how to stay within budget as a college student.

Speak to current college students as they have already been through the college admission process and know what they were looking for and have committed to a university. Current students or peer advisors can speak firsthand about what student life looks like and tell you about everything they wish they knew before they started. If you need help finding a student or peer advisor who attends a specific university, reach out to the school counselor or an instructor who can pair you with someone available to help.

How to mentally prepare for college

A good tip before starting college is to remind you that everyone is in the same boat as you, and other students are also worried about the transition to college. It's alright to ask for help and voice any concerns you have with other students or professors.

Another issue you might encounter is choosing a major. You can always change your mind and steer from the path of your intended major — college is meant as a time of exploration and pursuing new opportunities. If you have doubts about your current major, speak with an alum, professor, or school counselor. You can also try to shadow someone in the industry you're considering pursuing to see if it's a good fit for you.

Making friends in college can change your experience. A great way to make friends and start a social life is to join student organizations. Getting involved with a club will help you meet new people who share a common interest with you. It can be intimidating to put yourself out there, but having a support system and group of friends will make the transition into college more accessible.

Freshman year will be difficult because it's an entirely new environment than you're accustomed to, so make sure to be gentle with yourself and look for meaningful activities to do outside of schoolwork. Attending college should be an enjoyable experience, so make time for fun!


Frequently asked questions about preparing for college

You may have questions about preparing for college or how can help you during your college can help you. Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about preparing for college.

Are high school students prepared for college?

Research shows that high school students are equipped for higher education after graduating. In a survey of 1,500 students, Grand Canyon University found that 79.2% of respondents felt that high school properly equipped them for a college education. On a 10-point scale, respondents gave an average ranking of 7.1 on how well high school prepared them for college.

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Does college prepare students for the real world?

Although there is no definite answer to this question, many students would say that college does equip students for the real world. At college, students are living away from their parents — some maybe for the first time — and learning new responsibilities they can take with them after graduation. Students learn problem-solving skills, time management, and decision-making that they can apply outside the classroom while learning the necessary information to work in their desired career field.

The financial responsibilities of being a college student also translate to the real world. If you have to pay for college or take out loans, you will leave college with an understanding of managing money and budgeting. Even if your parents or high school teachers never taught you financial literacy, college can teach you how to manage a loan, budget, and pay for living expenses, which will always come in handy in the real world.

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