…Are you ready yet?

Chances are probably not even close.  That is okay, because you really have a few more months to making your college choices and starting somewhere.

However, because this is technically your last Christmas as a high school student, there are a number of steps for you to be aware of so you include everything in making the right choice when it comes to choosing the right school you’re going to attend.


As seniors in High School, consider the following and follow these very simple steps:


Bachelor’s (4 year degree)

Associate’s (2 year degree)

Certificates (less than 2 years)


Many applications for college admission and/or financing might require that you submit an essay. Choose a topic and write about it. Some topic ideas could include: what are my plans in 5 years from now? Or your biggest challenge and greatest moment thus far has been…, or you are deserving of acceptance to this college, or for this money, because…

Just a few ideas, but practice writing, or typing it. Have someone edit it to help with corrections.  You can save this and use it as necessary.


College prep is important. I know you don’t want to have to think about college before college, but you will save so much time and it will be so much more stress-free if you were to get rid of these types of classes in high school.  They ARE easier.

Talk with your counselors or someone like a teacher that can help you make the right decisions on classes.  You need to consider taking these two types of courses to be best prepared for college: Core courses you need for final credit, or AP type courses if you’re that good!  Secondly look into all the classes that are offered in school that pertain the most to your chosen career ideas.  Get some idea before you start college.

Check your transcripts. Those will help colleges make a decision as well.


If this is necessary, take these tests and do the best you can. There might be other subject tests that you could take as part of your admissions procedures into a college. These tests might help you to get out of a class. Most high schools allow you 3-4 days of excused absence to attend a college for a “visit day.”

There are free practice tests for ACT and SAT online at www.testpreview.com.  There are other sites out there. I’m familiar with this one as it helps you prepare even for subject tests.

5. PARTY!!!

I’m just kidding…don’t party too much when you go to visit a college.  Visit 3-4 schools and different types if you’re really not sure where you’re going or the type of school you want to attend.

Please, don’t go on a college visit only to party.  Really check things out. The living conditions, the food the options for shopping and bars, restaurants, etc., check out student union and student services to see what kind of things they do for you as a student.  Do you want to join a fraternity or sorority? Check them out.  Do you want to be Student Body President? Check out their Student Government. Do you want a job in the community, look around at the places hiring, etc.  I’ll soon provide a check list of stuff you can use when visiting schools, depending on our interests.


Paying for college would be nice right? Some of you are fortunate and may even be able to skip this step, but I’m willing to bet a majority of you could use a little more money, even if it’s a scholarship that you win to apply toward miscellaneous college expenses. Go online to create a profile of yourself and your interests and past accomplishments. This will help you locate ALL the scholarships that you would be eligible for.

Apply for as many as you can. Use the essays you practiced with and start filling out applications.  Write nice!  Computers have taken away our abilities for even simple penmanship…so take your time.  Apply for them online as well if you can.

Be sure to follow through with every application. Make sure every step is complete. If it is not, it’ll be tossed.


Apply to several colleges if you can.  Pick at least 3-4 that you think you have a good chance of getting into and just apply.  It doesn’t hurt right? I applied for 8 colleges and was accepted to 4. I had my choice of 1 of 4.

Be sure you understand that there are different types of institutions (colleges). Many of them are public, but there are also vocational schools that you can attend for a specific amount of time to earn whatever degree or certification necessary to start working, and then there are community colleges and private colleges. Make sure you have every piece of information you need from each institution.

Some websites to visit are www.fastweb.com, www.collegeboard.com, www.fastaid.com, and plenty more at www.keithlipke.com, click here to access a list of miscellaneous scholarship websites D:\My Documents\klipke\10 High School Masters\Scholarship listing.pdf


This is one of the least talked about topics from mom and dad when it comes to school. Make sure you’re on top of this.

By the time January or February rolls around, you have to start thinking about gathering whatever federal and state tax paperwork from you or your parents so you can have it for financial aid filing. March is usually the month to file. The earlier the better when it comes to government financing.  Attend a FAFSA (Free Application for Free Student Aid) meeting that your school or career center provides. They can assist you as well as the school you’re applying to.  If you’re at that stage in February/March that you have selected a school, the financial aid office will direct you with filing appropriately. Most of the time you will have to do it all yourself.  Visit www.fafsa.gov for more specific information. Only use this federal government website for financial information.


I hate that word too…

Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 (or before March 10 in most states…be sure to check) You can actually file online at www.fafsa.ed.gov

Submit any other financial aid forms required by the college(s) your student may attend and check to be sure the colleges your student is still seriously considering do not have earlier dates by which any of the financial aid-related forms must be filed.


By this time you should be really used to checking and receiving a ton of mail.  Sorry about that, but get used to it. You can’t and won’t be able to change it much.  It’s a part of adult life.

Anyhow when you receive a thick envelope from the Federal Government, it’ll most likely be your SAR (Student Aid Report). This is a document that basically lets you know how much it would cost to attend whatever schools you wrote on your FAFSA form, then it will tell you how much you will get in FREE money (Pell Grant),. Then whatever is left for you to pay for. This amount would be your responsibility. But they give you other options like Subsidized or Un-Subsidized Loans. These are loans that are held at low-interest and allow you to pay back starting 6 months AFTER graduation.

If you ask 10 people who attended college if they ever had to take out a loan, more than likely 7 out of 10 will say oh yes.


By March or April you will have to start making some final decisions on which school you really want to attend.  Visit these schools once more and take a final breath…then decide.  This is one of your first most important decisions you will have to make…congratulations!

Make sure it fits your career choices as well.

Remember to use those college visit days…check with your guidance counselor.


The school of your choice will give you all the stuff you need to begin the process of dorm selection, roommate choosing, food options, extracurricular involvement, class selection and schedules, orientation, etc. etc. Make sure you follow all instructions given to you.

Life is about following instructions.  That’s how this world has worked and the only way it will continue to prosper…if we just follow certain processes of how things are done, it makes life so much simpler.

Make sure you pay things on time, turn in forms and applications and whatever other documents needed on time.  This all is a part of your reputation and how well people consider you.


I know you would rather spend money going out…but the reality is every penny you put into the “college city” will benefit you greatly.  There are going to be those 2am mad pizza cravings and you’re scraping pennies and dimes from the floor and cushions just to have enough for a small pepperoni. Each of you will have to contribute something toward college.

Here’s a great site that helps with college savings tips:

Now that your on Christmas break, you have about 1 1/2 weeks to follow through with these steps.

Good luck and please post any responses, comments, suggestions or questions you might have.

God Bless you and Merry Christmas,

Keith Lipke


Please post any suggestions, comments or questions you might have. Tweet me or friend me on FB!

Keith Lipke is a careers and college recruiter, coach, mentor and blogger at The Career Closet. His passion is to educate, inspire, and give hope to young people who need it upon their search for the right career and college.