Calling all families with high school juniors: It's time to get started on the college admissions process. Do not procrastinate. The good news is it's not too late.
Here's a primer on what you should be thinking about over the next several months:
Review your PSAT results.
Sign up to take the ACT or the SAT early this spring. Consider registering for both so you can determine which is the best test for you.
Take free online practice tests for both the SAT and ACT. (www.number2.com).
Compare your scores. (www.act.org -- type "concordance" in search box).
Register and study for AP tests and SAT subject tests, if appropriate.
Make an appointment with your guidance counselor and discuss your current college list.
Stay focused on your academics -- if you anticipate applying early action or early decision, your grades from junior year will be the most recent grades seen by colleges.
Continue to stay involved in extracurricular activities.
Review your senior course options. Be sure not to lighten your load. You don't want to have the appearance of not taking your senior year seriously.
Attend college nights and financial aid presentations at your high school.
Research, research and research colleges of interest.
Take an online college assessment to create your first college list. Talk with family about financial expectations, possible majors, pros and cons of large and small campuses, different locations, etc.
Create an initial list of at least three "reach," three "target" and three "safety" schools.
Check out the online syllabus at each college's website and evaluate different academic majors.
Explore college online through virtual tours (www.campuscompare.com).
Read blogs from administrators, high school students and current college students (http://talk.collegeconfidential.com).
Attend the college fair in your area.
Schedule visits for long weekends, teacher workdays and spring break.
Attend the information session and campus tour and spend time on each campus.
Sit in on a class; set a meeting with a coach or professor.
Eat in the dining hall; visit a residence hall not on the tour.
Identify something special to do this summer.
Focus on your passions and begin research for summer enrichment programs, internships or job-shadowing.
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.