We are surrounded by it in our daily lives. Is my job safe? Are we doing all we can to protect our health? Are my investments going to rebound? People want answers. They want to feel as though they have some control over their future, and many feel as though that is lacking. The same word, uncertainty, applies to the college planning process. In the best of times, this process is complicated and filled with pitfalls that are easy to sink into. This is true for all high school students, regardless of what grade they are currently in. What can you do to gain some measure of control and ease the stress? The answer revolves around education, early planning, and hard work. In the words that follow, we will attempt to provide knowledge on how to move forward with the college planning process in a constructive way.

One of the first obstacles surrounds the SAT and ACT. During Covid, the implementation of standardized testing was challenging, and now, post-Covid, many schools are test-free or test-optional. The latest SAT and ACT requirements by specific colleges can be found by visiting www.fairtest.org. Also, additional SAT information can be found at www.collegeboard.org, and ACT information can be found at www.ACT.org. It is a good idea to frequent these websites often since requirements change from year to year.

We encourage all students to take the SAT and/or the ACT, and our college counselors will assist the student in determining which schools those scores should be sent to. If a test score will show the student in a positive light, the student will be encouraged to send the score(s). If the score is below what the school is looking for, the score(s) will be viewed as a detriment, and therefore, not encouraged to be sent to a particular college.

And thus, a dilemma arises: without test scores it is more difficult to assess whether schools on the student’s list are attainable and practical, and it makes for a more difficult admission’s process on the college’s end. Planning and building a quality list of 8-10 schools becomes more important than ever, and students should plan to study for the test in the summer between Sophomore and Junior years. Taking one test in the fall of Junior year, prepping additionally, and then taking another test, will ensure that the student is setup for success. Then, super-scoring those test scores becomes paramount!

A key part for many families in the college planning process is experiencing college tours. Sometimes it is difficult to visit a college, and quite often families wait until a student is accepted to go on that road trip. One option is a virtual tour of a campus, and it is a good idea to go to a neutral site to view these tours. Two recommendations are www.collegetours.comand www.youvisit.com. If you can go in-person, go as early as you can in the process! It is not premature to have a freshman or sophomore visit colleges; the more upfront planning you do, the more prepared and less stressed you will be.

Financially, be honest with yourself about your ability to afford some colleges. You do not want to go bankrupt paying for school, and if your plan to pay for school has been negatively impacted, you will need to address this with a professional. Remember, a good plan is not one that will pay for just one year or the initial semester for your oldest child.

Visit colleges, construct a resume, prepare for the standardized tests, and build a school list and refine it, as needed. Solid planning and hard work early in the process will turn the college planning journey into a more manageable experience!