More than 10 million people apply to college each year. The process can be a big and stressful decision for both upcoming students and their parents. There are tests to be taken, applications to be filled out and visitations to be scheduled. If you have a high school student who is ready to start thinking about their next step in their life, these tips from Cardinal College Planning can help you gather your thoughts and get organized for this major life moment.

Develop a shortlist

When it comes to deciding where you want to go to school, you need to decide what you are looking for in a school. Developing a shortlist of options can help you organize your thoughts around what is important. Perhaps it is location. Do you want to stay close to home? Do you need to stay in-state because of the cost? Or have you always dreamed of using college as a moment to leave the nest and try somewhere new? Another consideration will also be the size and school offerings. What is interested in studying? Are you more likely to feel comfortable at a large or small school?

Take the ACTs or SATs

Although some schools are changing their ACT and SAT requirements, many schools still require this test as part of their application process. That means you should schedule your ACT or SAT and from there begin studying for the tests. At the same time, spend some time reviewing the requirements for your shortlist and learning about what they are requiring for these tests. When you take the test, remember, most students will take it one or more times to ensure they have the best score possible. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for that first test. 

Fill out your applications

The next step is to fill out your applications. Make sure that you have reviewed all of the deadlines. Read all of the instructions so that you can ensure you have provided all of the requested information. Before you send the applications back to the college, make sure that you have someone proofread the full application. Any small mistakes can have your application automatically rejected. 

The college application process is a stressful one. But, when you have a plan of action you can ensure that you are better prepared to approach the schools that you are most interested in.