1.       Focusing on getting good grades in a challenging curriculum.  This is very important.  The world will not end if you get a B or two, but colleges really look at whether or not you challenged yourself.

    2.      Making sure that the ACT and SAT have been taken once by the end of the junior year.  You can take the tests a second time, but by your junior year, the scores probably won’t change a lot.  If you wait until your senior year, you go into the year without a fair idea of what colleges to target.  Participate in any test prep offered by your school or free resources. 

    3.      Looking at the testing requirements for the long list of colleges:  do any require SAT Subject Tests?  If so, register to take them before the end of the junior year.  Ask your math teacher which math test to take.  There is no point in taking both 1 and 2. 

    4.      Colleges like leaders, although not everyone is one.  Take on leadership roles in your activities.  If possible, position yourself for a high office during your senior year. 

    5.      Volunteer somewhere related to your interests (or just volunteer).  Whether it is tutoring middle school students or helping senior citizens, colleges like to see students who are willing to give of themselves.

    6.      Have honest discussions with your parents/guardians.  Don’t be afraid to apply at schools that are ridiculously expensive as long as need-based aid is available.  In-state schools tend to be cheaper, but it is okay to look beyond Ohio’s borders for deals and schools that are the right fit for you.  Give your parents copies of information on financial aid so they can learn about the process.  Explain to them that they will need to do their taxes early during your senior year.  Let them know if a CSS Profile is required by any of your schools.

    7.      Visit schools as much as you can during days off.  Visit the schools far away during the summer.  Looking at different schools will help you define your criteria for a match. 

    8.      Think about possible essay topics.  This is really a summer project.  Have an essay ready for your AP Literature/Language teacher to read in August/September.  Read sample essays to get a feel for what is good and what is boring.

    9.      Start working on the short list of colleges (reach, match & safety) and looking at deadlines.  Some schools have deadlines as early as November 1st.   Identify two teachers who could write excellent recommendations for you.  Make sure you make an appointment with your guidance counselor before the end of the year.  Your guidance counselor writes one of your recommendations.  It is easier to write about people you actually know!  You will also need to note whether or not interviews are recommended or required for your school.  This is a fall topic; but pay attention to whether or not the interview is a part of the application process.

    10.    Start planning what you will be doing this summer.  Many internships and activities have January/February deadlines.  The early bird often secures the proverbial worm.

    11.   Yes, there are more than ten things to think about.  Marketing:  how will you present yourself as a candidate?  Are you the math/science kid, the lover of the arts, the robotics champ, the political science dude, the pre-med student, etc.   How will you sell yourself to the college?  Colleges have classes to fill.  Where will you fit in?