College prep-students should start early

It’s never too early to start preparing for entrance to college. For freshman and sophomores, college may seem far off but junior year, a crucial year in the college planning process approaches quickly. If students aren’t taking steps early in high school, they will have a lot more work to do in Junior year.

Getting accepted to college is hard work even if you’re prepared, but the task can be a lot easier if students are proactive throughout high school. Participating in meaningful community service from the start of high school and consistently throughout the four years looks great on a student’s resume. Volunteering at nursing homes, shelters, food pantries, hospitals, just to name a few are great opportunities for students to give back to their community and provide experience toward their career choice as well.

Researching majors and career paths should be done prior to exploring schools. Discovering schools that fit your budget prior to visiting them is most important. Students need time to find the right schools to apply to. We recommend applying to 6-8 schools, incorporating target, reach and safety schools. While applying to many schools may seem to tip the scales in a student’s favor, it’s often a result of poor planning and panic due to little guidance in the process. There’s so much information to sort through. This is when a good college counselor can help the student to identify colleges that may be a good fit. It takes time to build and refine a college list, which is why it’s important to start the process as early as possible.

College admission is competitive. It’s not just enough to have a terrific junior year in high school. Colleges review all four years of grades, extra-curricular activities, sports, and community service so students should get involved in freshman year and maintain good grades throughout their four years of high school. That said, it’s never to late to improve your grades. If a student’s 1st and 2nd year grades were not the best but they improved dramatically in junior year, admissions committees can consider it to be a sign of maturity and academic preparedness. Colleges will also evaluate the difficulty of a student’s curriculum, so make sure your student is taking courses with increasing difficulty each year, demonstrating they’re ready for the college course load.

SAT or ACT tests should be taken in Junior year and if needed a final test could be taken in the beginning of the senior year. College essays and the common application should be completed over the summer prior to senior year if possible to avoid putting more stress on the student in their senior year.

By starting early and spreading out research, campus visits, SAT/ACT test prep, and extracurriculars, students won’t feel as frantic come senior year. At that point, the only thing left to do is apply.

Students will benefit from starting earlier because they’ll be more focused and confident that they’ve done all they can to have the best chance for admission to colleges of their choice.

A native of Trumbull, Lynn is a College Planning Advisor and a Registered Investment Advisor. She is a member of The National Association of College Funding Advisors (NACFA). Lynn helps families successfully navigate the college admissions and financial aid planning process so their children can attend the college of their choice, regardless of cost. Join the group for a free college financial planning workshop at the Trumbull, Shelton, and Stratford Libraries during the month of February. You can register at or email them at