Are you thinking about going to college? Whether the decision has already been made or is still years away, please browse through our Planner Timeline, which we have designed to help you prepare for college. Please note that although you can complete most of the necessary tasks in your junior or senior years of high school, you should start planning as early as the eighth grade. Not only will this improve your chances of getting into your college of choice, but it will also make applying much easier.
Below is a general guideline of steps you should follow while preparing for college. Each step contains links to sections of MarylandMentor that contain tools and information to not only help you plan for college, but help you select colleges, apply to them online, and fund your college education. To go directly to the Planner Timeline, click on your grade level above.
Prepare for college early.
Vague advice, perhaps, but invaluable. Early preparation will help you greatly in positioning yourself to get into your college of choice. We recommend that you start as early as the eighth grade, and start using the Freshman Planner in your freshman year of high school. It’s not too late, however, if you are in your junior or senior year of high school. You can still choose, apply and be accepted to the college best for you if you plan carefully.
Regardless of the grade you are currently in, there are some general guidelines to remember and rules to follow:
Pay attention to dates and deadlines.
Keep in mind that even though they may not be required for high school graduation, most colleges require at least three, and often prefer four, years of studies in math, English, science, and social studies. Use the Freshman Planner to help determine the requirements for a particular school in which you may be interested.
In addition, most colleges require at least two years of the same foreign language.
Your grades are important but the difficulty of your coursework can also be a significant factor in a college’s decision to admit you. In general, most colleges prefer students who challenge themselves with tougher courses, even if they earn only average grades, than students who opt for easier courses that will boost their GPAs.
Honors and advanced placement courses are often weighted more heavily than other courses in calculating a student’s grade point average.
Computer science courses or courses that require students to use computers in research and project preparation can also help aid your future college performance.
College admission officers will pay the closest attention to your GPA, class rank, AP and other honors-level courses, and scores on standardized tests.
Participation in extracurricular activities is also a good idea in high school. Activities that require time and effort outside the classroom (such as speech and debate, band, communications, and drama) indicate that you are a well-rounded individual with many interests and a willingness to cooperate with others, putting forth the effort needed to succeed.
Volunteering at various organizations within the community can also be beneficial, giving you a chance to gain experience in and observe various work environments, while showing others your ability to reach out to those in need.
Plan a career.
Choosing a career can be difficult, but by figuring out what you most enjoy and what skills and abilities you have, you’ll get a better idea of the careers in which you are most interested and their corresponding majors. Having this information in mind will help you decide which colleges are right for you.
Find the college that’s right for you.
There are three ways you can select a college on this site.
By comparison: Use the Comparative View to find and sort colleges using preferences such as college type, location, size, cost, campus life, academics, etc.
By preference: The Matching Assistant allows you to indicate the factors you want to consider when choosing a college and matches the schools participating in the Mentor system to those factors, helping you to narrow down your list of schools.
Visit the college(s) of your choice.
Once you have narrowed your selection, visit your top choices through our Campus Tours. If possible, you should also arrange to visit the campuses in person.
Research your payment options.
You should look into scholarships, student loans, and other financial aid options before you apply to a particular college or university. Since there is so much financial aid available and since colleges are generally willing to work with you to put together a favorable financial aid package, money shouldn’t be a primary concern when considering a college.
Come back in January for financial aid assistance. Most financial aid forms have to be filed after the first of the year, after your taxes and/or your parents’ taxes have been filed.
We will help you sort through the financial aid process and give you information that will help you complete your financial aid forms and teach you other ways to get money for college.