Do your homework early. Research career ideas and colleges with majors that could lead to careers that interest you.
Don’t wait until the week before a deadline to ask a teacher or a coach to give you a letter of recommendation.
Don’t show up at an interview without knowing enough about a school to explain why you’d make a great contribution there. A surprising number of students start chatting about their intended major only to find, in embarrassment, that the college they are interviewing for doesn’t even offer it.
Research costs and financial aid thoroughly, and as early as possible. “Never overlook a college simply because of the published cost,” says Kris Roach, director of admissions and financial aid at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. “For many students, what they pay out of pocket for a college education is very different than the published price because of merit-based scholarships and need-based financial aid.”
And don’t delay filing financial-aid paperwork. Some schools may have rolling admissions, but their grants tend to be doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.