By Maureen Brakke, on March 24, 2016

“I’m only in 8th (or 9th) grade. Why do I have to think about this now?”

Think it’s too early start preparing for college? Time goes FAST, so it’s a good idea to start helping yourself now. That way, when you’re ready for college, it’s a little easier.

Here are some things you can do now to prepare and save for college:

  • What do you want to be when you grow up? Take the “Reality Check” and “Strength Finder” at UtahFutures.org.
  • Sign up to be a Utah Scholar if you’re not already. Check with your school counselor to see if your school is a Utah Scholars partner.
  • Plan to take the right classes throughout high school to be ready for college.
  • Join school clubs, after school programs, and look for volunteer opportunities. Exploring different programs and opportunities can help you discover what you enjoy. Being involved in a variety of activities will also make you a stronger candidate when you apply for college.
  • Look for scholarships. Search websites such as UtahFutures.orgFastweb.com and collegeboard.org. Look in your community and check with your parents’ work. Many scholarships can be put on hold until you’re ready to start college, so it’s never too early to apply. Use thescholarship tool kit to help you successfully apply for scholarships.
    • Look into employee tuition assistance or sponsorship. Some companies sponsor students’ college tuition and/or give tuition assistance. Check and see if you or your parents’ work offers this.
    • Check with college alumni associations. Many alumni associations offer scholarships. Check with colleges your parents attended or with the college you are interested in to see if they offer scholarships that can be handed down to you from when your parents graduated.
  • Go to the Regents’ Scholarship page, and learn which classes you need to take to qualify for a state scholarship, and develop a four-year high school plan.
  • Involve your entire family in saving for college. Brainstorm savings strategies and hold savings contests!
  • When you’re old enough, get a part time job to help save for college. Every little bit counts.

Want to really plan ahead?

Learn about classes such as such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB)*, and Concurrent Enrollment (CE). Some of these classes can also count as college credit-so you could save money on college tuition.  You can typically take these your junior or senior year in high school. Talk to your high school counselor for more information so you’ll know what your options are when you’re ready. *IB is not offered at all high schools. Check with your school counselor.

Maureen Brakke is a communications specialist with the Utah System of Higher Education. She also manages StepUpUtah.com, and formerly worked as a financial aid and college prep outreach officer with UHEAA. You can find her on Twitter @BrakM30