Here is what I learned along the way as I prepared for college. I hope it helps you with your goal. ~Amelia
Getting ready for college
When you start high school, start keeping track of everything you do for school. You will almost certainly be required to submit a transcript to any college you apply to. I never had a problem with colleges accepting a transcript that my mom and I typed up on the computer, but I would ask any college that you’re interested in about their policy on this. Also, you will need a transcript for any scholarships that you decide to apply for. There are several books out there that can give you more advice on constructing a good transcript.
Take the SAT and/or ACT tests for the first time as soon as possible in your senior year, or even earlier. That way you have time to take it over again if you don’t like your score. Also, this relieves a little stress as you go through the college application process: if you get your testing done early, you won’t have to worry about getting your scores to the colleges on time. (A note on this: I found it very difficult to find out when colleges required my SAT scores. No one seems to want you to know this! If you’re wondering, here’s my secret- I went to http://www.collegeboard.com and looked for the colleges I was interested in on their search page. Under each college, among other information, was the date that SAT scores are due by.)
Plan to take the GED. Most colleges require this, if you are homeschooled and have no “official” diploma from an accredited public or private school. The state of Maryland awards a high school diploma as well as a GED certificate if you get above a certain score. I recommend taking this as early as you feel ready for it, just to get it out of the way. If you have a basic knowledge of algebra, history, science, etc. you shouldn’t have a problem with it. Check out a GED prep book at the library to find out what you’re in for.
If you’re going to take any Advanced Placement tests, make sure you find out as soon as possible when they are being given! They are given only once a year, usually between April and June. Registration closes way before this, so make sure you get it done. (I personally missed the deadline. I made the mistake of assuming that, like the GED and SAT, the AP tests would be administered several times throughout the year.)
Searching for colleges
When you start your search for colleges, I recommend not looking at prices. Keep your own budget in mind, but don’t rule out any college that looks promising just because it’s too expensive. When you’re first looking, you will have no idea how much financial aid you will receive. It may be more than you think. Your best bet will be to find and apply to colleges with a mixture of price tags, all preferably ones you’d be happy to go to.
When you first start looking for colleges, decide how far away from your family you want to (or are willing to) be. This is something I should have done first, because my searches turned up colleges haphazardly all over the United States. I got overwhelmed with looking at colleges in Hawaii and California before I realized that I didn’t want to be that far away! Narrowing down your geographical range will help you reduce your search results to a more reasonable number. (Those huge books with lists and profiles of every college and university in the USA are certainly intimidating to sift through!)
Making your decision
Here’s something that pretty much nobody will tell you. If there is any doubt in your mind of which college you should choose, I recommend waiting until the last possible moment to inform any college of your acceptance. There is a story behind this! When I was deciding which college to go to, I was down to two choices: Salisbury University and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. My ideal choice was St. Mary’s. My problem was this: they were both good colleges, but St. Mary’s was quite a bit more expensive. When I received the first set of financial aid information, there was no way I could afford St. Mary’s, but Salisbury was within my budget. The naïve person I was, I immediately accepted Salisbury’s offer of admission. It turned out later that St. Mary’s had more financial aid to offer, which they told me about later. Not only this, but the state of Maryland also had a grant to give me that it didn’t tell me about until the day before the decision deadline. On that day, I suddenly had enough money to go to St. Mary’s, but I’d already refused admission! (Plus, I’d already given Salisbury the $200 non-refundable tuition deposit.) It all turned out all right in the end, because St. Mary’s allowed me to change my mind even after refusing admission. It did cost me $200, however, for Salisbury’s deposit.
Good Luck! I hope you find the Perfect College for Yourself!