When Should I Start the College Planning Process?

You know that a college experience lies somewhere in your future. Of course, there’s a big difference between merely having aspirations and creating an actual roadmap.

Planning can be just as much of a journey as attending college itself, so it’s wise to take it seriously by starting as soon as possible. Here’s what you should know about getting ready for higher education.

It’s Never Too Early to Start Planning for College

If there’s one thing that you ought to take away from these tips, it’s that you can’t start planning too soon. Although you should keep your options open until you know more about where you’re heading, formulating some kind of strategy in advance is better than waiting until the last minute for circumstances to force your hand.

Think About Why You Want to Attend

Earning a degree is the main point of going to college. Successful students, however, realize that universities are just stepping stones.

As you prepare for college, think beyond graduation. For instance, you may pursue a degree so that you can someday enroll in a postgraduate program. If you feel drawn to an artistic field, like studio art or music, then you might just want to hone your skills because it’s your passion. Understanding your motivation is the key to planning a successful college experience.

Location Is Secondary

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about where you want to go before you consider why you should go there. You may be in love with a school because your parents met there or it’s a hometown favorite, but ask yourself whether its degree programs support your academic goals. If another institution offers a more suitable curriculum, then you owe it to yourself to pursue the opportunity.

What Will Your Degree Mean for Your Career?

Some students naturally feel drawn to certain curricula by the promise of future employment. There are no guarantees, however. Instead of dedicating yourself to a difficult degree path because you think it will secure a spot at your dream company, you need to take a broader approach.

Consider schools and programs based on the skills that they offer and how they relate to your chosen field. If you’re just starting off, don’t be afraid to consider elective classes that hone your general skill set and augment your freedom to forge a unique trail later.

Are There Better Ways to Graduate?

As you prepare for college, always consider alternative pathways. Many students save money by attending community college classes or high school programs that let them earn credits more frugally. These are great strategies for getting ahead.

What Happens When Things Go Wrong?

Your college planning needs to leave room for events not going according to plan. For example, you may fail a critical course and have to retake it over the summer or need to find a part-time job to fund your schooling. Such events are difficult to anticipate, but maintaining an adaptable outlook helps you take them in stride.

If Planning for College Seems Overwhelming, Break It Down

You don’t have to do all of your college planning at once. Try the following tips to make life easier.

Cultivate Financial Readiness

Are you already saving money for school? You should be. If you practice budgeting, the adjustment won’t be as jarring. Now would be a good time to have a conversation with your parents or guardian to begin discussing how you-all plan on paying for college.

Visit Schools

Don’t jump into a new experience blind. Visiting your prospective schools is a time-honored college planning trick to find something that fits. For more about visiting schools check out “The Dos And Don’ts for College Visits” and “Making the Most of Your College Campus Visits“.

Adopt the Right Mental Footing

Planning for college is all about changing your attitude on personal accountability. Whether you take on extracurricular activities, a summer job or for-credit classes at your local community college, assuming responsibility for your academic progress now is the best way to find your stride.

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