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Students wanting to go to college should prepare as early as possible

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com · 340-2443

Students hoping for scholarships should start preparing for college early, said Amy Martin, a guidance counselor at Lawrence County High School.

The summer following their junior year, students should narrow their college wish list to five and visit campuses to determine if they’re looking at colleges that meet their needs, she said.

Most colleges have Web sites where students can find information about the admissions process, tuition rates and student housing.

The next step is to practice for and take the ACT, a college-entrance exam required by most four-year colleges in the Southeast, said Martin.

Scholarships based on leadership abilities or other non-academic skills usually require a 25 or higher score, but academic scholarships usually require at least a 28, said Martin.

The national average in 2006 was a 21.1, according to the ACT Web site, www.act.org.

Martin said she encourages students to take the test as many times as possible before October of their senior year, the last month one can take it before most scholarship deadlines. Students generally do better their second or third time around, she said.

Grade-point averages are also important, but if seniors have waited until that last minute to try and pull their GPA up, they may be out of luck, said Martin.

Because the deadline for most scholarship applications is October or November, students generally must report their current GPAs — not the GPA they will have when they graduate.

She also urged students to apply for as many scholarships as possible. Most colleges offer scholarships for students that have proven success in high school, but many foundations and other private entities offer scholarships as well, she said.

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