If You're Reading This, It's NOT Too Late

    Everyone goes to grade school, and eventually everyone is expected to graduate. But after all that is over, what is there to do? Some people decide to go straight into the work force and pick up a full time job, while others go to college. Those that go to college either say that they had a hard time doing well or they say that it was the best four years of their life. So what makes these two college groups so different? Preparation. And if going to college is on your mind, the first thing you need to do to succeed is begin preparing for it now. Here are five simple steps to help get you on your feet and start preparing for college. 

    Study for college entrance exams. The ACT and SAT will only help you get into college. State universities especially are focused on these scores and are more than happy to financially support you if your scores meet their expectations. The earliest you can register online is usually in middle school; however, these exams show universities if you’re ready to begin at the academic bar set for incoming freshmen, so it’s a good idea to wait until you have entered the 9th or 10th grade before you take your first college entrance exam. Speaking from experience, taking these exams as early as I could allowed me to be familiar with the test construction and kept me feeling comfortable as I studied for them throughout high school. Studying for the ACT and SAT is only a matter of finding the right material to explain core concepts in a way that you can understand. Purchasing a book, using a tutor, taking advantage of online test preparation, or even paying attention in class are all excellent ways to study for these tests. A proper use of all these resources will put you on a secured path to success. A good way to see if all that studying is paying off is to take one of the exams at least once each school year, and if test scores still do not meet scholarship qualifications after your junior year, consider taking it once a semester. The test fees may seem excessive at the time, but if your final test score is high enough to receive a full scholarship, you will not feel so bad about spending a couple hundred dollars during your high school career.

    Get involved. The best way to meet people in college is through campus involvement groups, and you want to be in the habit of being involved in these groups, begin joining in high school as many will lead to connections after you graduate. In addition, active participation in various clubs and groups is important creating your resume for college acceptance. I attended countless leadership camps and was a part of numerous groups during my high school career, many of which were found off campus and brought me into contact with people that I would see again years later when I began college. These extracurricular groups gave me a network of people on which I could rely, and gave me critical people skills that have allowed me to be a part of one of the most challenging freshman leadership programs found at my university. I first began participating in extracurricular events my freshman year of high school, and this enabled me to be comfortable in this environment on the college campus. Many of these groups also provided external scholarships which really helped with starting off my college career.

    Take as many college credit classes as you can. Advanced placement classes are another way to prepare for college and possibly the greatest tool you can take advantage of in high school. Not only do they give you college credit, but they are tremendously helpful in preparing you for college entrance exams because they have material found in college classes. They also demand a higher caliber of studying and note-taking than a traditional high school class, which can only help you in preparing for college. Most AP classes cover core curriculum required during the first two years of college and as  college classes, are a lecture format with close to 300 students. Receiving credit for these classes, you skip those huge lectures and can move on to more important classes earlier in your college career. After my first semester of college, I had enough combined credit hours from AP classes and college classes to be considered a sophomore which gave me preference over the other thousands of freshmen when I scheduled the following semester.

Figure out your major as soon as possible. People will tell you that it is fine if you have not decided your major field of study yet, but you do not want to be graduating a year, or even two years, late because you could not decide what you wanted to do. The extra expense and time are not worth being indecisive. This may require some consultation from a number of friends and family employed in a wide variety of occupations, but it will diminish the possibility of not being able to decide on a major. Personality tests are also a great way to figure out what sort of career you would find most suitable. Once you get a result, finding a summer job or internship in that field will give you a good idea of what you may like or dislike. Even if the best you can do now is figure out which college of study you want to be in, such as the college of business or the college of engineering, that will help you graduate on time and with a less stressful college experience.

Research your college or university of choice. The worst thing you can do at a job interview is not know anything about the company you are applying to. The same goes with applying to a college. You do not want to finalize a decision and then regret it your first day of class. Figure out whether a huge, public school or a small, private school is better for you. Check to see where certain schools are ranked based on your choice of a major or graduate school. Find out when test score deadlines are due and if certain scores will get you certain scholarships. Talk to students or alumni who know a particular school well, and see what the pros and cons of attending that school. If you are a sports fan, you may favor a certain school because of its football or basketball program. Don’t take that favoritism too seriously, however, because they will let you down as often as they impress you. In addition, decide if being part of a Greek organization is right for you, and investigate those as well. The more time you spend considering a school, the less time you will spend regretting your decision.



Marcus is a freshman at Auburn University.  He is from Boaz, Alabama.