Iowa's admission counselors offer these suggestions:
Choose classes carefully. Take classes that will let you explore a career interest or help you meet the admission requirements for the colleges that interest you. When creating your class schedule, talk to your high school counselor and use Building Your Future (PDF), an online guide created by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, to help college-bound students map out an academic plan.
Keep your grades up. Remember that the work you do now is laying the foundation for your future study habits, so work hard! Focus on core subjects like reading, writing, and math.
Make a list of colleges that interest you, if you haven't done so already, and create a filing system to keep track of information about them.
Establish your college selection criteria and create a checklist. A college's size, distance from your home, academic offerings, opportunities for social involvement, and job placement rates might all be factors to consider. Use your filing system to keep track of contact information, admission requirements, important dates, and application deadlines for each school. Also, keep lists of what you like, what you don't like, and information you still need from each school.
Begin visiting campuses. Check the web sites of colleges that interest you for information on campus tours and visits. Structured visits and tours can offer a great overview of a school, while individual visit programs allow for more detailed information-sharing. Register for the type of Campus Visit that fits you best, and remember that a visit is not a commitment. It's an opportunity to experience a campus firsthand.
Sign up for summer programs that will allow you to informally visit the colleges that interest you and explore career interests. Iowa offers a variety of Youth & Pre-College Programs throughout the year.
Look for internship and job-shadowing opportunities. Admissions officers like to see well-rounded applicants who have participated in high school extracurricular activities, but also consider volunteering or job shadowing in a career area that interests you.
Take the PLAN or PSAT exam. Your high school counselor will probably recommend that you take either of these tests in 10th grade to help you prepare for the ACT or SAT college-entrance exams, which you take in 11th and/or 12th grade. PLAN is a pre-ACT test and PSAT is a pre-SAT test.
Keep track of your achievements so when you start filling out college applications, you won't have to try to remember all of your awards and extracurricular activities.
Build strong time-management skills. They are a necessity in college.