Over the past 20 years, secondary education has maintained the reputation of being a necessary first professional step, as opposed to an option for furthering one’s education. As more graduated from universities, more employers began requiring college degrees from applicants (whether the job required a degree or not). The current reality is, unless you have a specific trade or specialized vocation in mind, you’ll need a college degree to be competitive in the workforce. So, how do you make that happen? Getting into the school of your choice is likely a process that will begin years before you finish high school. There’s no shortage of competition at the collegiate level either. Here are a few things you’ll want to get in order as you prepare for college.

Should you even go?

College is a great experience and can be a major boon when applying for most jobs. However, it’s not for everyone. Furthermore, barring special circumstances, it’s extremely expensive; so much so that you’ll likely be paying for it long after you leave. It’s best to go into it with a career track in mind. That way, you can specialize your course of study to prepare you for the demands of your specific profession.

Which school should you choose?

This is a largely personal decision as it depends on what you want to get out of the school and the logistics of your geographic situation. That said, there are things you’ll want to look out for. There are growing accounts of students being taken advantage of by for-profit universities. While all universities are arguably looking to profit at this point, for-profit universities are a specific class of college that tend to advertise to students unsure of their futures under the guise of being a less expensive alternative. In actuality, for-profit schools tend to be more expensive. Moreover, because of the weak reputations of most of these schools, their degrees end up being less useful. Be careful.

Academic Expectations

This one’s kinda simple. Get good grades. Not just when you start to think about going to college, you’ll want to get good grades your entire high school career. Frankly, you should really get good grades in middle school too, that way you can be placed in higher classes in high school that look much better on a college application. It goes beyond just good grades, though. You have to find ways to stand out. Play a sport, join a team, join a club, start a club, get involved in student government, get involved in local government, volunteer, there’s no shortage of ways you can make your application shine. Then there are the standardized tests… Some people are fortunate enough to be really good test takers, they retain information easily and are comfortable under the constraints of time limits and test atmosphere. Some people are not so lucky. While both types should find ways to prepare themselves, for those who find it more difficult there are all kinds of resources out there to help put you more at ease. There are test prep programs that, along with study tips, will provide you with practice tests that simulate the conditions of the real test. It can be a really big help.

Financial Expectations

As previously stated, college is expensive. As scary as the huge tuition costs seem, it’s actually worse when you factor in all the additional costs you’ll be expected to pay. Financial aid is available in many different forms, some better than others, but there’s often still a substantial portion you’ll be expected to pay yourself. Don’t be afraid though. If you’re willing to look for it there’s help all around you. In fact, you can find some great resources in the article on this very website. If you’re starting to look into going to college, we hope this serves as an initial outline to help you through the long, but rewarding undertaking you’re about to embark on. If you know of other important things people preparing for college should know about, please leave them in the comments section. Good luck!