Iowa's admission counselors offer these planning tips:

Choose your classes carefully to make sure they will later satisfy the requirements for admission to your college of choice. Talk to your high school counselor and review the recommendations in Building Your Future (PDF), a brochure created for college-bound students by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, which governs the University of Iowa.

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 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.

Sign up for a summer program. Spending time on a campus can help you determine if it is right for you. Signing up for a summer program at a college that interests you will allow you to check things out. The University of Iowa offers a variety of Youth and Pre-College Programs to choose from year-round. Even if you don't end up at the school you visit, you will still learn a lot, make new friends, and become more familiar with college life.

Participate in extracurricular activities at school and in your community. College admission and scholarship applications ask about and value this type of experience. Keep a list of these activities, awards, honors, jobs (volunteer or paid), and offices you held in organizations. Update your list at the end of every term to make those senior-year forms (and college applications) easier to complete.

Learn and master time-management skills and avoid overextending yourself. Academics should take priority over extracurricular activities for college-bound high school students.

Use your summer vacation to hone your skills in any academic areas in which you underperformed during the school year. Retake a class during summer school or simply review course materials in your spare time. Succeeding in college requires mastering the basic academic skills you learn in high school.