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Winter break? Not exactly.

Happy holidays. It’s the time of the season to get together with friends and family and enjoy their company, but there’s also no rule against making some progress in your college quest too. Those loved ones may be able to help with ideas or guidance. (They may also just happen to live near one of the campuses you’re considering!) Can’t get to everything? Make sure to at least hit the first few.

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    Look for your results from the PSAT and/or NMSQT.


    It’s okay to hold your breath as you open the envelope. Just so long as you actually do open it. Besides, who knows? Those magical words “National Merit” could be in there somewhere. Plus, using the link below, you can even log in to the College Board website and see your projected SAT score based on your performance – along with the questions you got wrong and why. That’ll help you prepare for the *real* test: The SAT.

     
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    Get ready for the SAT®. And maybe its friends.


     

    First task is figuring out which you need to take: SAT I and/or SAT II. You may also need to take the ACT. (Or, you might not.) Check with the colleges you are applying to and find out about specific testing requirements. Whichever exams lay in your future, your high school counselor will know about registration deadlines. Then you can sign up and start studying. (You’ll find practice tests via the link below.)

    The College Board: SAT

     
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    Browse some catalogs.


     

    Go through the catalogs of the three to five schools that most interest you. (You might have picked these up during your visit to the guidance/college counselor’s office. If not, head on back and grab ‘em!) Read each school’s materials carefully: What courses do they offer? Anything you’re dying to know about? What about courses of study that fit perfectly with your career plans? Keep a scorecard if you have to.

     
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    Pay your future colleges a visit.


     

    Holiday travel could provide the perfect opportunity to check out a campus or three. When you go to each one, make sure you sit down with an admissions representative and a Financial Aid Officer. They can confirm what types of aid are available there. Of course, if you like what you see it’s also a good idea to go back and revisit once classes are in session. 

    Google Maps

     
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    Go to financial aid night.


    More than one of them, ideally. These are a great opportunity to learn more about how you’re going to pay for all this awesomeness. To find upcoming events, check with your school’s front office or your guidance counselor. You can also try searching the events section of your local newspaper’s website, or on the sites of local colleges.


     
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    Search intelligently.


    Now that some of this other stuff is checked off the list, you can start seriously investigating private scholarships and other student aid programs. And you start *that* by finding them. That’s where a scholarship search program comes in. If you don’t know of one already, just ask around. Your teachers and counselor may know of some good free searches. If not, the internet will. Oh, and steer clear of paid searches; they’re often scams.

    Besides, the free stuff can be great – like MyCollegeOptions, which matches you up with the offerings of more than 5,000 accredited post-secondary institutions across the country. 

    My College Options

     

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