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My daughter is almost 16 and planning on going to college. she does not know what she wants to do yet, but has many interests. She is planning on taking the SAT in November for the first time. Other than that, what else do we need to do to begin preparing? Like most, I would prefer her to get scholarships & grants to pay for college. She has a 3.0 gpa. She is looking at many schools. Any info will help.

Let me tell you, it's good advice only because I did it ALL WRONG the first time. Looking back, I made every mistake possible in looking for the perfect college. Mistake #1: like a little kid who can't wait to grow up, insisting that I was 17 years old and that I had to go away to college and make it on my own. News flash: most 17-year olds CANNOT make it on their own, nor should they have to. A lot of people aren't ready to move far away from home the day they graduate. I say this with all sincerity: community college IS NOT BAD. It's the perfect choice for those who need to move into the college thing a little more slowly. Maybe you didn't figure out until spring of your senior year that your grades weren'tĀ.outstanding. Maybe you don't have the money yet for a 4-year college. Maybe the thought of leaving home makes you want to glue yourself to your mother's proverbial apron strings and cry. Maybe there's not a 4-year college that looks appealing quite yet. In any of these cases, and for many others, community college is the way to go. You're not an adult the day you graduate from high school-don't put expectations on yourself that aren't reachable yet. That was mistake #2: it didn't matter that I was smart and independent and involved in school and had my grandmother convinced I was going to be the next Attorney General of the United States of America. The truth was that I simply wasn't ready to leave home, and in forcing myself to do it I didn't put enough thought into the college I chose. We'll call the place I went X University. I don't want to blast a college to pieces on the Internet, but if you e-mail me I'll be happy to tell you where I went and my experiences there. Mistake #3: I only went there because my best friend did. Mistake #4: I chose it without visiting or talking to anyone that attended this particular college. Mistake #5: I didn't listen to my parents, who tried to get me to at least LOOK at other schools. The place they wanted me to go is where I ended up transferring to after one semester at XU, and I completely love it. (Don't let your parents or mine read this, but you figure out after high school that parents are right much more than we want to admitĀ.) So, in a nutshell, start early. If you take the PSAT, you'll start getting brochures from colleges all over the country. Check them out. Visit the ones that look interesting-and make sure you either take an official tour of the school or visit while school is in session so you'll get to meet students there. Don't follow your best friend; don't pick a place because "the campus is pretty" like I did. Pick the place that has majors you're interested in, who seem interested in getting you to attend their school, that has extra-curriculars you like and that's in a town you can handle living in for 4 (or 5 or 6) years. If you need a little more time, go the community college route. You can still get the degree from the school you want, but you'll have 2 years to make sure you're going to pick the right school for you. Remember: college does not mean that you are an adult-only that you're on your way to becoming one.

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