Plan for College this Summer with these Free Online Resources
With school out and schedules relaxed, summer is the perfect time for students to start thinking about college. While it’s tempting to spend the summer at the pool or on the Xbox, time spent planning and preparing for college is time well-invested.
Depending on your grade level, this could be as simple as reflecting on goals and making a plan of action for the school year that will help you reach them. For students in high school, especially those entering 12th grade in the fall, this could also include researching colleges and majors, applying for scholarships, and visiting prospective schools.
Wherever you are in the college planning process, these great online resources can help you make good use of your summer, and get you on the path to college success.
If you’re just starting to think about college:
- Student Preparation Checklist – This guide from Federal Student Aid includes a helpful timeline of things students and their parents should do to prepare for college, from middle school, through the end of high school.
- KnowHow2Go - Offers advice and college planning resources for students in middle school and high school. A timeline and checklist for each grade breaks down college planning, prepping, and applying into simple steps. The Links2Go section offers helpful resources around the web on a range of topics.
- College Grazing - For students who aren’t sure about their goals, College Grazing offers a number of self-assessment surveys to help students figure out what they want out of college and get feedback about their interests. Planning checklists for each year of high school, essay guides, videos, and other resources help to guide students along the way.
- NextStepU – Lots of articles and step-by-step guides to planning, applying, and paying for college as well as advice on other decisions, like transferring, study abroad, gap years, and finding scholarships.
If you’re ready to start researching schools:
- Big Future College Search – This college search tool from College Board matches you to the schools that meet your interest and needs. Not sure what you want in a college? The interactive step by step guide can help you discover the types of colleges that are right for you and your goals. Other great resources include advice on college interviews and visits, getting letters of recommendation, and paying for college.
- College Navigator - This is a simple to use college search engine from the Institute of Education Sciences. Here you’ll also find the College Affordability and Transparency Center; a great resource for comparing schools by tuition and net price.
- UniGo.com - Once you have some colleges in mind, hear from students like yourself by browsing 250,000 college reviews from current students. Or use Unigo’s college ranking lists to discover the safest schools, the best institutions for pre-professionals, and other categories.
You’ve picked your top college choices, now it’s time to apply:
- National Association for College Admission Counseling – Articles, worksheets, and checklists on writing application essays, filling out applications, campus visits, financial aid, and community college options, can help students and parents navigate the sometimes bewildering college application process. Use the schedule of College Fairs to find an opportunity to meet college representatives face to face.
- College Confidential – Here you’ll find a great list of articles and resources with advice on applying for college and making sense of college applications.
- CollegeApps.about.com – A surprisingly in-depth collection of articles and advice on writing a great application essay. You’ll also find many resources specifically for the Common Application used by an increasing number of public and private institutions.
You got in to college! Now how to pay for it?
- Federal Student Aid – Resources and information from the U.S. Department of Education to help students plan for and pay for college.
- FAFSA – Filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a must for college students.
- Fastweb – Fastweb’s scholarship and internship finder is a great resource for finding opportunities to win money for school.
- Scholarships.com – An extensive scholarship search engine, as well as a wealth of information on applying for scholarships; from writing effective essays and making videos, to tips on appropriate etiquette for recipients.
- thinktanK12 blog: College