By Kristen Miller
DASSEL-COKATO, MN - Preparing for college can be a scary thing for both the student and the parents, but if done in steps beginning in the student’s junior year, it can be less painful.
Dassel-Cokato High School guidance counselor Cassie Vogt recommends juniors begin attending Minnesota education fairs and visiting colleges.
So many students enter their senior year not knowing which colleges they want to apply to, Vogt explained.
Since there are a number of college choices out there, students can see Vogt for “Options Beyond High School,” a detailed guide for students with a list of colleges and the majors they offer, as well as cost and financial aid options.
To help with their decisions, juniors planning to attend college after high school should visit with college representatives when they come to the school.
Early in their junior year, students should also meet with their guidance counselor to ensure their high school courses coincide with their college goals, Vogt explained.
Aside from visiting prospective colleges, students should begin researching possible careers they may be interested in.
A resource for those undecided is www.iseek.org, where students can learn about many different careers including an overview of each, work activities, skills and abilities needed, wages, education requirements, and more.
In the spring of their junior year, students planning to attend college should register and take the ACT test.
Later in the junior year and into the senior year, the college-bound should be researching scholarship opportunities. A good resource for this is www.fastweb.com, according to Vogt.
If a college has yet to be decided on, students should continue college visits throughout the summer and, in September, narrow their options, according to Vogt.
In October, those who wish or need, to retake the ACT test, should do so.
Seniors should begin applying to their colleges of choice in the fall of their senior year.
Applications can be found on the college web sites or through the guidance office.
Students can begin applying as early as September, but Vogt advises the latest to apply should be winter break. Depending on deadlines, applications should be in no later than March, Vogt said.
Deadlines change, depending on the school, she added.
In December and January, males need to register with the Selective Service system, the agency responsible for enacting a military draft. Registration can be done at a post office or online at www.sss.gov. This is necessary for eligibility of financial aid, according to Vogt.
In January, those interested in receiving financial aid can begin applying for what is called the Free Application For Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
A financial aid workshop is scheduled for DC students after parent/teacher conferences Thursday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.
In February, students should continue with their financial aid applications and start housing applications at their college of choice.
At this time, students can also begin the local scholarship application process through the guidance office.
When financial aid applications have been completed, applicants will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), explaining what they qualify for.
In April, local applications for scholarships should be turned in to the guidance counselor, and the college should be notified where the student plans to attend.
May and June is when students should have their final transcripts sent to their college of choice. Transcripts can be sent through the high school office.
Through the summer, students should attend college orientation when offered, Vogt suggests.
The hardest part of the process is getting motivated to visit colleges, as well as filling out college applications, Vogt said.