- Select courses that will challenge but not overload you. Most of the preparation for college happens daily through your classes. A good start makes everything else run much more smoothly.
- Begin to investigate ways to get involved in something outside of class. Many times, it’s not necessarily what you do, but how committed you are to the task. This could include everything from school activities and athletics, to community service, to part-time jobs.
- Meet with your school counselor and let him or her know about your interest in going to college. Counseling offices work with colleges to know the type of students that may be a good fit for a campus. If you have a specific question and can't get an appointment with your counselor, feel free to send Carnegie Mellon a message to our First Generation Student inbox.
- Ask your counselor or teachers about honors or advanced course options and how to enroll.
- Visit a local college to get a feel for a college campus. During your visit you can start thinking about size, location, and other things important to you in your search.
- Join mailing lists to receive information through mail and email about important dates and visit opportunities. You can join Carnegie Mellon's Invitation List right here.
- Figure out what is important to you in a college. Talk to your parents, school counselors, and people that you know that have gone to college to help you identify what is important to you in a college. Questions you might ask:
- What size school do I want?
- What major do I wish to study?
- Do I want to be in the city, suburbs, or a rural area?
- Search for Pre-College programs such as those held at Carnegie Mellon (learn more about our Summer Programs for Diversity here). Pre-College programs give students the opportunity to see what life is like on a college campus over several weeks and (in some cases) earn college credit.
- Create your initial list of colleges. Talk to your school counselor about your list and how your grades and exam scores compare to students admitted to those schools.
- Plan your college visits. There is no better way to determine whether a college or university is right for you than assessing whether you’d be happy to join the campus community. During your visit, you'll want to attend an information session, tour the campus, and sit-in on a class.
- If you're concerned about the time or financial resources necessary to visit a college campus, contact the admission office and let them know that you are interested in visiting but unable to do so given your circumstances. You might find that the school has funds to help make your visit possible.
- Attend college fairs. A college fair is a gathering of college representatives who are looking to speak about their college to interested high school students. They can tell you about almost everything at their college. Ask your counselor about how to find college fairs in your area.
- Take the SAT, ACT, and/or SAT Subject Tests… but practice first! Most students take the SAT or ACT for the first time during the spring of their junior year. The best way to study is by taking practice tests. the College Board and The Khan Academy have partnered to offer free SAT prep. The ACT also offers similar resources. Both the College Board and ACT offer fee waivers, if you are concerned about the costs of taking these exams.
- Register for the SAT, ACT, and/or SAT Subject Tests. Most colleges require that you submit an SAT or ACT score. More selective colleges, such as Carnegie Mellon, may require or recommend that you submit one or more SAT Subject Test scores as well. Both the College Board and ACT offer fee waivers, if you're concerned about the costs of taking these exams.
- Begin your college applications. Many colleges, such as Carnegie Mellon, are members of the Common Application through which you apply for admission. Be aware of Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Decision deadlines.
- Attend information sessions at your high school given by colleges in which you're interested. Also, be aware of evening and weekend sessions hosted by colleges in your local area by visiting the college's webpage or joining their mailing list.
- Research applications and financial aid deadlines. Communicate with your school counselor to make sure that your transcript and letters of recommendation are submitted to all colleges to which you are applying.
- Apply for financial aid. Complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some colleges, such as Carnegie Mellon, require you to submit a CSS PROFILE in addition to the FAFSA.
- Plan to attend an admitted student program for colleges that offer you admission. College visits held specifically for admitted students can be different from visits held at other times of the year.
- May 1 is the National Deposit Deadline for regular decision applicants. You must notify a college of your intention to enroll by May 1, usually by submitting a monetary deposit for your first semester’s tuition.