When is the Best Time to Start Planning for College?

Planning for College Today

Regardless of your age, GPA, socioeconomic status, political beliefs, geographic location, or gender your college planning should start today.  It is never too early to begin planning for your academic career and mapping out a plan to get you where you need to be in the future.  In an effort to help you chart a course, we have put together an outline of things to consider in your planning efforts.

From a planning perspective, you need to establish goals, milestones, and activities as part of your planning process.  The Oxford Dictionary defines a goal as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result”.  In other words, goals are the overarching items that need to be accomplished as part of your life’s plan.  Goals are large, broad-based by design but need to be specific, measurable, and trackable.  A milestone is effectively a checkpoint in the process of achieving a goal.

Taking the time to understand that goals can have many sub-components, you will be best served to create milestones to help track the progress of your goals.  Likewise, an important component of any milestone is the specific activities needed to move from one milestone to another through the eventual completion of the goal.   Having all three components (goals, milestones, activities) in place will help you stay organized and effectively progressing towards your goals.

With that said, let’s jump into the 5 most effective steps to help ensure your success when planning for college.

  1. Set Challenging Goals: Setting a challenging goal and write it down.  There is an amazing strength in writing down goals and professing your intention to successfully achieve that goal.  For example, if your goal was to achieve a GPA of 3.75 you would need to write down the goal and post it where you can see it every day.  That goal would need to have specifically defined milestones along with daily and weekly activities.  Valid activities would be to have a daily planner rife with notes and to-do lists in order to be fully prepared for upcoming assignments, quizzes, tests, and essays.  Knowing when these events were happening would prompt specific activities to take place days or weeks in advance.  Perhaps the activity would be meeting with a study group or scheduling time with your teacher to get clarity on a particular topic.
  • Insider’s Edge: It is important to understand the importance of taking Advance Placement classes.  In most cases, an A in an AP course would count as five points versus a four points for a non-AP class. This nugget may be a two-fold win: earning college credits in advance plus having the net effect of boosting your GPA.
  1. Excelling at Standardized Tests: Specifically, you will want to make an extra effort to score well on the SAT and ACT standardized tests.  Circle up with you counselor and determine which test will benefit you the most heading towards your college years.  The extra practice leading up to these standardized tests will prove very beneficial and make the actual test easier to attain quality results.
  • Insider’s Edge:  You can take the SAT and ACT more than once to achieve a score you are satisfied with.  This may prove to be a useful tip to properly build out your academic profile.
  1. Illuminate Your Life Outside School: In other words, involve yourself in activities that underscore your passions and beliefs.  There are myriad extracurricular activities you can get involved in to illustrate to others your interests and well-rounded approach to life.  Most often, a college admissions team will bend towards candidates that are strong academically and understand the importance of personal development.
  • Insider’s Edge: Be choosy.  Try not to jump in and out of a dozen volunteering gigs or try a new sport every season.  Commit to a few extracurricular activities and work hard to develop yourself within that particular discipline.
  1. Communication Skills: You will be well-served in school and in life by honing your verbal and written communication skills.  More specifically, if you take an extra class in school or online course on improving your communication skills.  The IEEE offers a host of free classes on communication that range from creative writing to leading through difficult conversations.
  • Insider’s Edge:  Invest in yourself.  Invest in your future by committing to becoming a lifelong learner.  Take extra classes and remaining inquisitive about life.
  1. Your North Star: If you know what you would like to study in college, make a plan with your counselor to ensure the courses you take prepare you for your future.  As an example, taking extra calculus and physics may lend itself nicely to best prepare you for an eventual degree in engineering.
  • Insider’s Edge:  Go a step further and engage with a few of your favorite colleges to see what courses they recommend you take to best prepare you for a degree of your choosing.

Work hard to develop good habits early.  Study hard.  Stay organized and remain goal oriented.  It’s your life!      


I have learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.  Henry David Thoreau


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