7 things high school juniors can do now to gear up for college applications By Mackinna Hart Oh, the college application process. It’s as relaxing as getting your teeth pulled. But the sooner you prepare, the less painful it can be. Don’t let stress and anxiety overrun your senior year of high school. Use these seven tips to prepare yourself for a smooth application process. 1. Make a list of colleges to visit during spring break or summer One of the most important steps in finding the best college for you is visiting the campus. But first, you need to do a college search and create a list of colleges that you’re interested in. Some questions to consider when creating your college list: Do you want to go to a large, medium, or small college?Do you want to be close to home or far away?Do you want to go to school in a big city or a small college town?Do you like snow or would you prefer sunshine most of the year? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t panic! The point of visiting college campuses is to figure out what you like and don’t like. So make sure your college list has a variety of schools on it. 2. Create a college application resume College application resumes are your opportunity to showcase all of your high school accomplishments, besides your grades and test scores. Write down any clubs, sports, volunteer projects, class projects, honors and awards — this is your chance to show what makes you stand out from the rest. When it comes time to fill out your college applications, go on interviews, ask for teacher recommendations, and apply for scholarships, this list will be very handy. 3. Request teacher recommendation letters early If you want great recommendation letters from your teachers, warn them ahead of time. You won’t need to send your teacher recommendations to colleges until your senior year, but the sooner you ask, the more likely they’ll say yes. Your teachers will be receiving lots of recommendation requests when it gets closer to college application time, so the earlier the better. As your application deadlines near, check in with your teachers and make sure they haven’t forgotten. And don’t forget to write a thank-you card once you’ve received their recommendation! 4. Have the financial talk with your parents How much can you or your family afford to spend on college? Whether your parents or guardians are involved in the college application process or not, it’s always important to talk finances. Don’t forget to include travel expenses, books and supplies, extra spending money, etc. It’s also important to remember that a college’s listed price may not be what you actually pay. The number of students who qualify for federal financial aid is steadily increasing and you may be one of the many families to receive grants, federal student loans, work-study awards, or scholarships through the school to help pay for college. So don’t let the numbers discourage you! 5. Apply for scholarships Scholarships are everywhere! Start applying to as many scholarships as you can, as early as you can. Even if you haven’t started your college search, you’re never too old or too young to start saving money for college. Use personalized tools like Scholarship Match to help you quickly sort through the Internet to find scholarships that are perfect for you. You’ll be grateful for the extra money when it’s time to pay tuition. 6. Study for the SAT/ACT You can take the SAT and ACT as many times as you’d like. But do you really want to take it more than once or twice? If you start studying a month or so before the test and devote a few hours each week, you may only have to spend a total of three-hours-and-45-minutes bubbling in answers on a Saturday morning. 7. Begin writing your college application essays The college application essay is your chance to show college admissions counselors who you are. They’re an important and heavily-weighted part of the college application. So forming ideas early and getting a head start on them during the summer before your senior year will make your life so much easier. Yeah, I know spending a portion of your summer vacation writing essays is the last thing you want to do. But when all of your friends are scrambling to finish and edit their essays right before applications are due, you’ll be SO glad you started early. College applications can quickly become overwhelming, but if you prepare and begin the process early, they’ll be ready to submit in no time. Start creating your campus visit list with our College Match, and don’t forget to check out student reviews before making a commitment! About the author Mackinna is currently a student at Belmont University studying music business. She is also a firm believer that a spoonful of Nutella can solve any problem! She loves to write and be creative whether that be via songs, articles, or poetry.