College Prep

What They Don’t Tell You Before Applying to College

Teen with laptop on couch researching colleges

For high school students who are thinking about colleges and potential career options, having a timeline is essential. But, most college application timelines have you starting in your junior year. We believe that this is late in the game! That’s the secret they don’t tell you before applying to college! So, before it gets too late, start thinking early about what you might like to study. And, to get that thought process started, and before you sketch out a timeline for college applications, ask yourself…

  • What am I passionate about?
  • Do I see myself with a future in STEM, technology, medicine, journalism, or business?
  • How do my current interests line up with a college major?
  • Which universities have the majors that fit my aspirations?
  • Should I wait until junior year to figure this out?

The answer to the last question is no. Believe it or not, you can begin to answer these questions starting much earlier. 

Key things to know before applying to college

Consider pre-college programs for teens. There are both college prep summer camps and online pre-college programs that allow you to pursue your passion for a subject and see if it could be a major and potential future career.

College prep programs focus on popular subjects such as STEM. This is a great option for any high school student who is thinking about a future in areas like medicine, biomedical engineering, psychology, or potential careers in the tech sector.

Academic enrichment programs for high school students come in many forms, and when you tap the resources of Prelum, you’ll discover a broad network of partner universities; some of the best in the nation.

Determine your interests

Do you aspire to a degree in the field of healthcare, but you haven’t made up your mind about the area of medicine that suits you best?  Wake Forest University offers a whole range of online college prep courses that include everything from medicine and cancer medicine to sports medicine, and women’s health. And you can start exploring these subjects as young as 13 years old!

Let’s say business is your thing. Iconic names like Columbia Business School offer teen academic enrichment programs in subjects like hospitality, luxury, sports, as well as TV and film.

And let’s look at STEM. According to one leading source, the average salary for all STEM workers is $100,900 — double that of non STEM occupations. So, if you plan on joining this popular field, why not start in high school? You’ll find pre-college programs at schools like Case Western Reserve University where you can take astrophysics and evolutionary biology, biomedical engineering, computer science, engineering, neuroscience, and medicine — all STEM related fields.

Finally, there are schools like Georgetown University who offer nearly 20 courses as part of their Pre-College Online Program for teens. You’ll find biology, cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, law, leadership, marketing, and much more. 

What should your college application timeline look like?

Here’s a Standard 5-Step To Do List For College Applicants


Summer before Senior Year

- Make up your list of preferred colleges

- Align admission requirements with your grades & test scores

- Consider majors and personal goals


July/August before Senior Year

- Narrow down college list to top choices

- Compose letter asking teachers for recommendations


September/October of Senior Year

- Finalize list of schools you intend to apply to

- Create a planner for your application process

- Start filling out applications


November/December of Senior Year

- Send in transcripts and test scores

- Submit your applications


December and January of Senior Year

- Research financial aid and available scholarships

- Complete financial aid and scholarship applications

Want to accelerate your chances? Add academic enrichment programs to your efforts.

Freshman Year:

Try out college prep summer courses to see if your passion for a subject could lead to a college major or career. If summers are not ideal due to family vacation plans or a job, try out an online pre-college program at any number of colleges and universities. The options are endless.

Sophomore Year:

This is still a year for personal exploration. Even if you want to embrace the “Early Bird Timeline” for applying to college, that starts in your junior year. In the meantime, college prep programs for HS can help you move on to your junior year with confidence.

Junior Year:

Keep pursuing your interests with online pre-college programs. Remember, each course that you complete successfully earns you a Certificate of Completion from a renowned college or university, and this can give you an advantage with admission counselors. 

How can college prep programs for HS make applying to college easier? 

These programs, whether on campus or online, are available for teens aged 13 and older. Whether your interest is STEM, finance, law, journalism, healthcare, you name it, you’ll find a program and courses that are designed for motivated students like you. They make it much easier to decide on a major and a college before you have to start applying. And when you successfully complete a course, you’ll earn a Certificate of Completion that looks good on your resume, and to your guidance counselor.

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*Kaplan may receive compensation upon student enrollment in one of our partner programs.*