Get Involved Don't forget about the world beyond the classroom. Colleges like to see students who can balance outside activities and maintain good grades. "Extracurricular activities are the icing on the cake," says Jane Schoenfeld, an educational consultant for the Independent School Placement Service of St. Louis, Inc. "Admissions committees want to see how a student can contribute to the college inside and outside of the classroom." Perform community service or get a part-time job. Extracurricular activities show that you're a well-rounded individual and you know how to manage your time efficiently. Research summer programs. Many colleges offer arts camps and college prep courses during the summer for high school juniors and seniors. These programs are a good way to develop your talents and get your foot in the door with colleges.
Go Above and Beyond Do your best in your classes. Remember: Class rank and G.P.A. are key factors in college admissions. Take honor-level and advanced placement courses. Enroll in courses at a community college. Your high school transcript will show admission committees you are up to the challenge of a competitive college environment. Get a Head Start Don't wait till senior year to research schools, college entrance tests and financial aid options: Take a "virtual" campus tour on the Internet. Visit the homepages of schools that interest you. Also attend college fairs to meet admission representatives and obtain course catalogs. If possible, plan to visit campuses yourself to get a first hand account of the school's culture and social life. Prepare for college entrance exams. Your scores can determine what scholarships you qualify for and what college you attend. Ask your counselor about services that offer ACT and SAT preparation classes and practice tests. Keep track of the dates and deadlines for the tests. Learn about financial aid options. Don't let the cost of a college education scare you. Attend financial aid seminars hosted by local schools. Ask community businesses and organizations if they offer college scholarships. You can also search scholarship databases on the Internet like FastWeb to apply for awards that match your interests and career goals. Junior year is the perfect time to begin preparing for college. And whether you're headed for a state school or you have dreams of Harvard, a clear strategy will guide you toward your destination.