Five Resources To Simplify Your College Planning Process
Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?
See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.
Thinking about life after high school can be a little intimidating at first. After all, most high school students are still living with their parents, attending high school full-time, and juggling a multitude of social and extracurricular activities. This has likely been your reality for years, and imagining how your life may change after graduation can be a little scary.
It’s a good idea to begin thinking about life after high school in your early high school years. This will give you some time to plan your approach well in advance. You’ll have many complex topics to consider, like high school course selection, extracurriculars, and financing a college education, so getting a head start is a good idea.
But if you didn’t start college planning early in high school, there’s no need to start worrying. Really, any advance planning is better than none at all, and many students continue to change their paths or plans even after they begin college.
If you are considering applying to college, whether you’re a freshman just entering your high school years or a senior staring down an uncertain summer post-graduation, the process may seem daunting. But you don’t have to do it alone.
Don’t worry, we here at CollegeVine have compiled a list of our five favorite resources to help you organize, plan, and approach the college application process. Keep reading to learn the five college planning resources we recommend most!
Most students think of the College Board as the organizers behind the big bad SAT and AP exams. If you’re intimidated by standardized tests, it might be easy to think of the College Board as the bad guys.
In reality, though, the College Board provides a vast collection of valuable resources for not only preparing for standardized tests, but also planning your future. The Big Future website gives advice on everything you need to get started with the planning, ranging from building a support network in high school to special resources for veterans or undocumented students.
The site also has a unique college-search feature that allows you to create a college list based on your preferences and the college’s selectivity. You can even search for schools based on your test scores.
Furthermore, the Big Future provides extensive planning tools for paying for college, including scholarship and loan-search services, a financial aid estimator, and the CSS Profile, an application that is sometimes required for certain need-aware scholarships.
Finally, the Big Future gives practical advice for high school on topics ranging from course selection to college applications and test scores.
This is a resource you will not want to miss. If you didn’t think of the College Board as your friend before, you will once you visit the Big Future.
Starting a Google Calendar may seem like advice that is overly simplistic or perhaps even obvious. But if you are about to dive headfirst into college applications, standardized tests, scholarship searches, and more, you will need a foolproof way to stay organized.
Google Calendar lets you easily sync your schedule across all of your devices so that it is always readily accessible. Even more importantly, it allows you to share you calendar with others and even invite them to create their own events on it.
It may sometimes feel like you and your family are passing like ships in the night as your schedule gets busier. With a shared family calendar, there will be no confusion about who needs to be where, when.
Be sure to add important application deadlines, standardized testing dates and registration deadlines, along with any other important dates such as family commitments, sporting events, or extracurricular activities. You should also include special events like the prom or homecoming if you’re planning to attend them. Some students also choose to include school exams or due dates for long-term school assignments.
Sharing your calendar with your family will not only ensure that no one misses an important event due to confusion; it will also create a support system such that if you are running late or happen to forget about an upcoming deadline, there’s a safety net in place to remind you. If you don’t think your parents will be able to help with reminders, you can easily set a notification in advance on your phone or computer.
For many students, planning for financial aid is thought of separately from actually planning which school you’ll go to. That is, you plan your college education, and then you plan how you’re going to pay for it, but you don’t necessarily do both at once.
The Federal Student Aid website of the U.S. Department of Education wants to change that, and not just for students who receive federal financial aid assistance.
This comprehensive site provides an overview of funding options for higher education, including loans, grants, work-study programs, and scholarships, which is probably the extent of what you were expecting to find on this site. But it goes much further than that by also offering tools to estimate aid in advance, compare packages offered by different schools, and research repayment information.
Furthermore, the Federal Student Aid site considers career choice an integral component of college planning. Their unique career search options include average salaries of each field to help you “make sure that the school you attend is affordable relative to your likely earning potential.”
The website also provides comprehensive college planning checklists beginning as early as elementary school to start financial planning, or beginning as late as adults going back to school. Their college-prep YouTube playlist is another great resource.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Federal Student Aid site is only for students researching financial aid options. Everyone considering a college education can benefit from the information found here.
4. Khan Academy
Khan Academy first came onto the scene about ten years ago when they began publishing video tutorials on YouTube. Since then, they’ve grown exponentially through partnerships with Google, AT&T, and now the College Board.
Khan Academy is the official study partner for the SAT. With a Khan Academy account, which is available for free, you can access all of their content including practice SATs, SAT strategies, and SAT content tutorials.
In addition, they also offer course-specific tutorials for basic high school curriculum and for Advanced Placement courses. If you’re looking to brush up on any content knowledge, and you don’t have someone readily available to help you, a quick search of Khan Academy’s video tutorials is bound to provide some insight.
Most recently, Khan Academy has added a College Admissions component. Here, you can find information on the importance of college, choosing high school classes, pursuing extracurriculars, and selecting colleges. You’ll also find a wealth of information about the actual college application process and different options for funding a college education.
From its humble beginnings as a collection of YouTube videos, Khan Academy has certainly come a long way. Use this site to guide your studying for SATs and high school course content, and to gain insight into the college admissions process in general.
5. Peers Who Have Been There, Done That.
There’s no doubt that we live in a digital age where almost any information is available at our fingertips. But there is a big difference between getting advice from someone who’s done their research and getting advice from someone who’s been in your shoes. Sometimes there’s no substitute for firsthand experience.
If you have questions about specific extracurriculars, courses or colleges, it’s often best to try to get them answered by someone who’s been in your shoes. Try to think of someone you might know who’s experienced what you’re going through. Keep in touch with friends who graduate before you, or reach out to mutual acquaintances through friends and family.
If you can’t make a connection independently, you might ask a teacher or guidance counselor if they can put you in touch with an alum from your school who can help you out.
Alternatively, consider CollegeVine’s Mentor Program, which uses optimal pairing to make sure you are matched with the perfect consultant, a current college student whose interests and strengths are similar to your own. Our mentors work with you to discover your interests, develop your self-motivation, and become a high-performing individual. They also lend invaluable insight and advice to the college application process.
There is no simple path to a college education, and there’s no single way to get there. If you’re interested in pursuing higher education, whether you’re about to start high school or you’re already nearing the end of senior year with no idea what’s next, there’s help out there.
Using these five simple resources can help to refine your thinking about everything from selecting your courses, financing a college education, and focusing on majors and career. Beyond that, you’ll also be able to better use your remaining time in high school to work towards concrete goals.
For more information about planning your future, check out these CollegeVine posts:
Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.