college planning tips for underclassmen

Posted : August 4, 2005
Last Updated : December 19, 2022

college planning tips for underclassmen

As an underclassman in high school, you may not think that you have to start preparing for college until your senior year. However, getting a head start on the college planning process will ensure that you meet most of the requirements of college admission by the time your senior year rolls around. Follow these college planning tips to put you at the head of the game.


  • Keep your grades up. While grades are not the only factor that colleges look at when admitting students, they are still a very important factor of college admissions. Be sure to study hard throughout your four years of high school.
  • Register for appropriate classes. There are certain classes you have to take in order to be accepted into college, such as math, science, English, etc. Meet with your school counselor to discuss classes you should take in order to stay on the college-bound track throughout high school. Try to take as many challenging classes as possible, such as honors or advanced placements courses. Not only will this look good on your college applications, but you may even gain college credit for taking AP courses.
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities. By being involved in extracurricular activities, colleges will see that you are a well-rounded student. During your freshman year, find a few activities that you have a genuine interest in and stick with those activities throughout high school. Try to be fully involved in a few activities rather than be slightly involved in a lot of activities.


  • Plan your finances. The earlier you start planning for the financial obligations of college, the better prepared you will be when you actually have to start paying for it. Try to get a job during the summer, so you can save your earnings for college costs. Begin to research scholarships.
  • Research colleges and careers. Start researching colleges and career options as early as possible so you will have some ideas for a major. Get started on your career exploration.
  • Practice taking college entrance exams. If you practice taking college entrance exams, such as the PSAT, ACT Aspire, etc., during your sophomore year, then you will know what to expect and be better prepared for the real tests when you have to take them during your junior year.


  • Attend college fairs. By attending college fairs, you will have the opportunity to meet with a variety of college recruiters to discuss campus atmosphere, admissions process, etc. Take a copy of your resume to hand out to college recruiters at the fair.
  • Take college entrance exams. In the fall of your junior year, take the PSAT to establish eligibility for scholarships. In the spring of your junior year, take the SAT/ACT. Check with your intended college(s) about which test they prefer. Consider taking Advanced Placement Exams or the CLEP tests, if applicable. This may save you time and money by testing out of college courses you won't need.
  • Visit college campuses. Once you have narrowed down your choices for post-secondary schools, you should begin scheduling campus visits for the final schools on your list. For more info, read Tips for Visiting College Campuses.
  • Research/apply for scholarships. Throughout your junior year, focus on researching scholarships. You should begin applying for scholarships the summer after your junior year, especially if deadlines are in the fall.

By taking steps to plan for college during your freshman, sophomore, and junior years of high school, you should be well prepared to apply to the college/university of your choice by your senior year.

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