Prepare for College NOW

What should I do NOW to Prepare for College?

There are many ways to prepare for College.Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a white, dome-topped building.

If you’re in Middle School or younger, that’s wonderful. You have plenty of time to prepare.

If you’re a High School Freshman or Sophomore, you need to begin immediately.

If you’re a High School Junior, it’s getting very late. Hurry.

If you’re a High School Senior, your choices are limited. Talk to your school counselor immediately.

The rest of Judy’s Story : Preparing for College in Seventh Grade

I mentioned on the introductory page that I thought I’d like to go to MIT,  (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and started to prepare myself. That would have been the wrong school for me but the preparation helped in many ways. The picture above is a familiar view of MIT in Cambridge Massachusetts.

1. I began reading about MIT and other colleges and universities to learn what was required.

2. I began thinking about classes I should take in High School and organizations I should join.

3. I learned about the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). I saved my allowance (25 cents a week), bought a practice book, and started to practice. I did an actual practice test at least once a month (repeating many of them) for the next five years. By the time I took a real test, I felt comfortable with the kind of questions they asked.

4. Since Vocabulary is an important part of the SAT, I began to study vocabulary starting with a goal of ten words a day, gradually reduced to only 2 or 3 words a day.

5. I knew that reading more challenging books would help me build my vocabulary and help prepare me for difficult reading in college. I read at least one really challenging book every month, keeping my dictionary nearby.

6. I knew writing skills were important. I read examples of great college essays and practiced writing essays. We rarely had essay questions on tests in my High School, so I practiced by writing good questions and then writing answers.

7. By the time I was in eighth or ninth grade, I was studying books about scholarships.

Yes, I went a little “overboard” on my preparation, but I’m certainly glad I did.  I took the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) Junior Year… as all of you should do. It’s very much like the SAT. I didn’t realize that National Merit Scholarships were largely based on the results.

To my amazement, I became a semifinalist.  After taking the SAT to show that my scores weren’t just luck, I became a finalist.  Then, I needed to complete a long application form including essays. I won a National Merit Scholarship which paid nearly all of my college expenses. I could go to any college I wanted without worrying about the cost. I would finish college without debts to worry about.

The rest of this introduction is divided into three sections. Read all three sections to get a good idea of what you will need to do to be prepared for college.

The first section is for students in Middle School or younger, but even seniors should begin reading here.

The second section is for high school freshmen or sophomores.

The third section  is for juniors and seniors.

What should you do to Prepare for College NOW?
Even if you are in Middle School or younger?

1. Read about colleges, college applications and essays, and scholarships.  Talk to college students and ask them what it’s like in college. Go to College Fairs or workshops. Talk to your parents about money for college.

2. Do everything you can to build a strong vocabulary. Don’t just learn new words and forget them. Keep a notebook and review your new words weekly, and longer lists of words every month. Try to use the words at home but don’t show off your new knowledge among friends. Nobody likes a show-off – especially if you can’t understand what they’re talking about.  If you and a few friends do this together, go ahead and use your words with this group.

3. Start with library books and do SAT or ACT practice tests. When you are ready, buy your own book and do these tests over and over. Study the answers. Study areas where you need work… perhaps grammar or math. I liked working alone, but if you prefer to work with friends, ask a few to join you for an hour or two each week.

4. Read Challenging Books on a regular basis. Your librarian can suggest possibilities. You might also start reading a newspaper. Keep notes of what you read and what you learned from each book. Your friends might read the same books. You could then spend some time discussing them.

5. Improve your Writing Skills. Practice writing essays. Ask a teacher to suggest ways you can improve your writing. You should continue this each year, trying to become a better and better writer.  If you are reading challenging books, try writing an essay about each book.

6. Even when you’re in Middle School, it’s a good idea to visit several colleges. You don’t need to travel long distances. Visit a local community college. Visit a few other nearby colleges.  Talk to students and ask a lot of questions.  What do they like best about the school? What do they like least?  If they were your age, what would they do differently?  What suggestions do they have for you?  If you have a good friend or older brother or sister, they might let you visit for several days, sleep in the dorm, eat in the cafeteria, and even attend a few classes. It’s a great way to see what college is like and to help you know what you want for your college experience.

7. If you have any problems in math, I’d recommend Khan Academy on the Internet. Start with first grade material and keep going as far as you can. You’ll need good basic skills including fractions, decimals and percents to survive Algebra.  It’s at    or just google Khan Academy. It’s free and better than having someone tutor you in math.

Do you really HAVE TO DO THIS?  No. But by starting to prepare now, you will have less work to do in High School and you’ll also make better grades.

Section 2: Prepare for College Starting in High School      Prepare for College 2

Section 3: Prepare for College Starting in your Junior or Senior Year   Prepare for College 3

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