Content Sponsored by: Alfred State College

Your college “to do” list.

Now is the time to start taking those first all-important steps toward college success. In addition to enrolling in strong academic courses, studying, and working hard to earn the best grades possible, here are several things you can start now.

Choose a path. Each of us is unique—which is why there are so many career options out there. What do you like to do in your free time? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you like math and science? Are you a budding artist? Does that accounting homework keep you entertained for hours? Your school counselor can help you narrow it down with personality and aptitude tests.

Reach out. Talk with family, friends, and people in your community about their jobs. Review websites that give specific information on careers. Shadow someone currently working in a field that sparks your interest.

Talk with your school counselor and start looking at college websites. Reference materials are generally available in your school guidance office and library. You may want to attend college night programs in your area. At these events, college representatives from many schools gather to talk to interested students. Don’t forget to get your name on those college mailing lists. You can do this from nearly any college website or by emailing or calling the school directly. Finally, attend a few college open houses once you’ve narrowed down your list.

Study up on schools. Do you want to go to school close to home or far away? Do you prefer four-year liberal arts institutions or technology-focused campuses? Focus on collecting and sorting through as much information on colleges as possible.

Don’t forget to include your family in your college search process. Talk with them about college costs and financing your future education.

Research. You’ll need to know what type of educational and experiential background or training is needed (and what is preferred) to work in your chosen field. Check out job listings online or talk with professionals in your chosen field.

Consider the following during your search: requirements for admission, available majors, costs, financial aid and scholarships, location, campus activities, athletics, campus housing, admission selectivity, and any other characteristics that are important to you, like rural vs. urban or available online course offerings.

Get involved! In all the rush to get ready for college, sometimes it’s easy to forget the importance of where you are right now. After school work, your first priority should be getting involved in school and community activities. Take advantage of your summer vacation—many colleges offer summer programs for high school students. You could also join a summer athletic team, develop and focus on a hobby, volunteer, or get a summer job when you’re old enough.

Look for leadership roles whenever possible—many schools take this into consideration when making admissions decisions. This is a great way to learn about various activities that might help you in choosing a career. And it’s a lot of fun!

Beginning in 9th grade, start keeping track of the school and community activities you’re involved in. And don’t forget to keep records of honors and awards you’ve won.