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Tips to Prepare for College

If college is one of your goals, start preparing now.

Once you've decided to go to college, knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. Use the tips below to prepare no matter when you start.

Middle & High School Students

  • Middle Schoolers: College is Closer Than You Think
    Right now, college probably seems like a million miles away. But middle school is the best time to start making plans for what happens after high school. Relax. You don't have to make any big decisions yet. But the sooner you start thinking about what you're interested in doing, the easier your choices will be later on.
  • Freshmen: College Starts in High School
    Welcome to high school! In less than four years, you will be entering a new stage in your life that's even more important than high school. So the time to start planning for college is now, while you've got some time to really explore your options.
  • Sophomores: Picking Up Momentum
    It's time to pick up the pace, dig a little deeper into your studies, and really focus on making your top choices of the colleges you'd like to attend. And in the meantime, you'll be preparing for and taking your first standardized tests.
  • Juniors: Time to Take Care of Business
    By now you can probably see the finish line: graduation. You're closing in on college so this is no time to slow down. If you get good grades, finalize your college search, and do your best on standardized tests, your senior year could bring you some great rewards.
  • Seniors: Putting it All Together
    You've worked hard throughout high school. Now it's about to pay off. As you head for the finish line, make each day count by meeting every deadline and completing every "to-do." From college admission forms to financial aid follow-ups to managing your schoolwork, you've got a lot to handle, but you know you can do it.

There's no magic formula to make sure you get accepted into the colleges of your choice. But there are factors that help. Consider these as you plan to apply to college:

  • Take the necessary high school courses. Review this list of recommended high school classes to make sure you're meeting the minimum requirements of most colleges.
  • Keep on track. Consider activities for each year in high school using this helpful college prep timeline.
  • Earn college credits early. Explore how you can earn college credit or advanced placement credits while in high school. Look at programs like Concurrent Enrollment and the International Baccalaureate. Also take advantage of Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO):
    • High school juniors and seniors can enroll in courses at Minnesota colleges and universities.
    • College courses are free. The state of Minnesota pays for tuition, fees, books, and sometimes transportation.
    • Students earn both college credits and credits toward high school graduation.
    • Find useful tips from the success stories of students accross the country.
    • You can learn about what it is like to be a college student.

Tips for Adult Learners — It's Never Too Late

Did you know that about 43 percent of American college students are 25 years of age or older? Think that's only for other people? Not true. If you really want to be an adult learner, chances are that you can go to college.

Get started with one of these:

Time to Look at Schools

It's important that your college major is something you enjoy. You will do better in school if you like the subjects you're studying. You also may find it easier to explain to potential employers what you gained from school. Get started on choosing a college with the tips below.

Take some self-assessments. Assessments help you learn your interests, skills, and strengths. Create a list of your top skills, interests, and values to use it to explore majors and careers.

  • Look at your interests to see how they match to career clusters.
  • Take our Interest Assessment to see how your interests relate to career options. You can link to occupational descriptions and majors.
  • Understand how your work values map to career options.

Research majors and type of degrees. Make a list of types of majors and degrees that best fit you. Then use that list to choose schools and programs.

Learn about schools. Look at Minnesota programs and colleges that offer the types of majors and degrees that interest you. Also, explore schools outside of Minnesota with the Education and Training Finder. As you look at schools, consider these factors:

  • Reputation of major or field of study
  • Location of school or facility
  • Cost of program or courses
  • Student body size
  • Faculty/student ratio
  • Availability of online or hybrid (mix of in-class time and online/computer time) courses
  • Apprenticeship or internship, if applicable
  • Extracurricular opportunities (music, athletics, etc.)

Remember, while schools' websites provide valuable information, the best way to determine if you'll like the school and program is to visit it. Finally, check the admission requirements of schools that interest you. Remember to consider admission tests

Get real-life work experience. This will help you decide if particular jobs or careers are a good fit for you and if it's worth pursuing education in those fields.

  • Volunteer or get a job — even part-time — to learn about occupations through actual work experience.
  • Explore work-based learning opportunities.


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