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Preparing for College

Finally, it’s SENIOR year at long last! Like most rising high school seniors, I look forward to attending football games, planning for prom, ordering my senior pictures, taking my last SAT and ACT tests, and yes…applying to college. But planning for college shouldn’t wait until you’re officially a senior; planning should start at the beginning of your high school years. In this week’s article I will focus on some simple tips I’ve found helpful in keeping things organized as you prepare for your senior year and college acceptance, and also spotlight the College Horizons program for Native Students.

1. Start your own student file. A simple file (either on the computer or a paper one) should hold documentation, certificates of completion or participation, award certificates, newspaper clippings, test score results, tax returns, or any other item you may need to refer to or document on college applications. It’s easy to overlook items but keeping them together will help you stay organized.

2. Start your student resume early, and fill it as you go! I created one in 9th grade on my computer. Be sure to include categories for Education, Awards and Distinctions, Community Service, and Work Experience and Summer Educational experiences. Always include your GPA and class rank. Check the internet if you are unsure how to set one up. Check it every few months for updates and accuracy.

3. Plan your summers strategically. Take the summers during your high school years to attend camps, seminars, and workshops to supplement your school year studies or special interests. College admission officers like to see a student who is proactive and engaged in educational interests year-round.

4. Develop a scholarship list. It’s never too early to find the scholarship opportunities you might be a good candidate for. You can also customize your resume and build credits that pertain to that specific award category. Planning ahead can make you more competitive for a scholarship to win!

5. Visit schools of interest and know their admission requirements. You can visit online or in person! Many colleges have special visitation opportunities for Native students. Know what courses or tests are required or recommended for applicants. Establish a relationship by touching base with admission offices. Sign up for the school’s mailing list and check into summer programs for potential future students. Choose schools that are a good “fit” for you based on your interest of study.

6. Consider the Common Application. This is one application that can be directed to one, or many, different schools of interest. Be sure to have your test results handy, a FASFA completed, and your transcript available when filling out the Common Application. Don’t provide just the minimum information but, take the opportunity to add as much about yourself as possible. Be sure to answer essay questions in a well thought out, organized and complete manner. Take your time; don’t rush!

7. Decide if you want to apply Early Action or Regular Admission. Many colleges offer Early Action or a similar admission standard that allows highly interested students to apply earlier than most students. The advantage is a much smaller pool of candidates for admission, but you should consider this only if you have selected a “first choice” school to which you are willing to commit to if accepted. This also allows you to plan financially for the expenses of attendance, and to act accordingly toward that goal.

8. Start your entrance essay early! Most schools require an introduction letter, entrance essay, or student biography with their applications. Some schools even provide a specific prompt, while others may be looking for creativity. Regardless, this is your introduction…so make yourself memorable. Gather ideas for your essay early (keep it in your folder) and then begin your writing over the summer leading up to your senior year. Early planning helps you not be rushed or “under the gun” while also juggling academic classes and other senior year activities.

9. Request recommendation letters early in order to avoid the “rush.” Most recommendation letters come from teachers, administrators, and community leaders, and reflect references to your personal character, commitment, academic enthusiasm, and future goals. Often, the same person has been asked by many students to provide such letters. Getting these letters early helps both you and the letter writer. Be sure to have them also send you an electronic copy (for quick editing for specific schools if needed) or get several copies of the letter already signed.

10. Social Media. In recent years we have learned that many institutions research student activity on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others. It’s always a good idea to keep your social media reflective of the type of student these schools are looking for. Monitor your social media as if YOU were the admission officer. Does your social media accurately reflect you and your goals?

11. Check out the College Horizons program! This exceptional program is a pre-college program for Native American high school students open to sophomores and juniors. Each summer, a six-day college admissions workshop is held which aids students in a focused understanding of the college admissions/application process. Students learn to select suitable colleges to research and apply to, complete winning applications and write memorable essays, receive test-taking strategies and resources from experts on the ACT & SAT, learn to navigate the financial aid process and complete scholarship searches, develop relationships with admissions officers from our partner colleges, get advice on how to succeed in college as a Native student, go on a campus tour, attend a College Fair, and meet with 40 admissions officers, meet and connect with 100 other Native youth from around the country, and travel on their own, visit a college campus, and experience life in the dorms, classrooms, computer labs, and in the athletic center.

College Horizons inspires students to find a college that will satisfy their needs for a fun, challenging and supportive environment. With over 3,000 colleges and universities to choose from nationwide, the program’s goal is to help students find the schools and funding that will make their college experience meaningful and worthwhile. Visit College Horizons at collegehorizons.org/programs and get motivated toward your college goals today. It’s never too early!

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