College Preparation Tips

Is going college one of your goals? Start preparing now!

Now that you have decided to go to college, knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. The tips below can help you prepare no matter when you start.

College Students

Ask yourself--are you prepared:

While summer sun shines brightly, the start of the academic year steadily approaches. As anyone who has survived higher education can tell you, preparing for college life is no easy feat! Preparing for college in every sense—academically, financially, and socially—is more complicated than buying textbooks and showing up for classes on time. College can change your life (and that’s the point). Because so much work is involved in earning a degree, you need to make sure to get everything you can out of the experience. Whether you are still in high school or a working professional returning to school, there are tangible ways to prepare for college—and all that, that entails.


College is a continuation of your education, and there is a lot of work to do before you get there.

Collegiate academic work is built on top of the years you spent getting educated in the public school system. It is simply the next step for prepared students, but it can be far more difficult to cross the gap if you are not academically ready for the next stage of your education.

Those wondering how to prepare for college academically should look carefully at their options and how they differ. The amount and kind of prior education needed depends on the type of college you wish to attend and the kind of degree you want to earn. Some schools and degree programs are more competitive than others, and choosing to compete means more time and effort on your part. That means working hard in all of your subjects to keep a good grade point average. It means spending free time studying for standardized tests, like the SATs, to demonstrate your intellectual skills. It means forgoing hours of doing whatever you want in order to volunteer for a cause or work to save money for tuition.

You may be thinking, that sounds like a lot of work! It certainly can be—which is why choosing to attend college is a big deal! College isn’t right for everyone, and there is no shame in that. A college education should be worth the time and money you will spend on it and not merely the next step to take when you aren’t sure where you want to go.


A college education can also continue outside the classroom. It provides a wonderful opportunity for exploration, both of yourself and the world of which you are now apart as a fully-realized human being, as an adult. Part of that is learning to share space physical, social, and intellectual space with people who are completely different from you. Be open to meeting new people and considering new ideas, to the possibility of changing yourself and what you know in a positive, meaningful way.

An important part of this section is the need to find a living situation that feels safe—physically, socially, and financially. Colleges have many different options and rules about those options, so be sure to investigate! You will have choices for how and with whom you want to live as a student, whether you are living on campus or off, in a same-sex dorm or not, loving the party lifestyle or investing in noise-cancelling headphones. Learning how to coexist can be a valuable life-long skill.

(And, of course, not all college applicants are high school students. Many are adults who have returned to school after working in the professional world and are seeking to refine or refocus their careers. The social aspects of the college environment may change significantly if a student is in a different life stage. However, students in this category still have the opportunity to challenge themselves and open up to new people and social activities!)


Depending on your or your family’s income, different financial aid offers will be available to you. This may include grants from the school or the government, awards for notable and high achievements, and other types of loans to help you delay the full cost of tuition. By submitting applications for financial aid on a yearly basis, the amount and type of assistance can change if your situation does.

It is critical that students understand their financial situation before, during, and after earning a degree. As everyone pursuing higher education knows, college is expensive and growing ever more so. Part of this requires a risk-reward calculation, which will be a different equation with each student. What is the true value of a degree? Tuition costs vary school to school, so what does a more expensive program offer that a lesser one does not? Does the name and prestige of the college matter, or does it make no difference to your future career so long as you have a degree? How much time, effort, and money are you willing to put towards a college degree? The answers differ for everyone. By searching for the answers, you will better understand your choices and the weight of each decision.

College provides an excellent environment in which to learn how to manage money and make wise financial choices. Whether working with their parents or on their own, students can manage their tuition and living expenses in accordance with their financial aid and any additional income. Getting a part-time job is also a great way to be able to afford small expenses while also learning how to set up and manage a budget, how to plan purchases over time, and how to be responsible and accountable for the financial choices they make.


Don’t fret--no one expects you to have all the answers on the first day! (You may not know everything on the last day, either.) The point of college is learning, inside and outside of the classroom. By putting in the effort to preparing for college life, you will be ready and open to face new challenges and opportunities for success.

Considering going back to school? Ready to change professions but need guidance? Looking for tips to advance your career? Search thousands of articles on education, internships, entry-level and executive jobs, and careers.


Where Do I Start


College Preparation
About The Author:

J.R. Mills is the editor-in-chief of Dotschools

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