College Prep Tips from the Pros

Top tips from Twin Cities education experts on how students can make the most of their high school experience.

Photo by Katherine Harris

College admissions staff look for solid SAT and ACT scores, consistent with high school performance. Consider taking one or more of the many excellent test prep options including online, classes, or one-on-one tutoring. Take the PLAN® ACT preparation test in 10th grade and the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) test in 10th and 11th grades to get an early read on your scores. Remember to sign up for the SAT Subject Tests if colleges on your target list require them.

0912-Mary_200.jpg“I believe that the rigorous coursework required by St. Paul Academy better prepares our students for the standardized college tests.”
Mary Hill, director of college counseling and academic planning, St. Paul Academy and Summit School


Before your junior year, make a list of colleges that interest you. Visit to learn about majors and minors and and for information about financial aid and scholarships. Attend the National College Fair and presentations by college admissions counselors who visit your school. If possible, visit colleges to get a feel for the schools. Finalize your “apply list” and start working on your applications and essays in the summer before senior year.

“When we begin the earnest college process work in junior year, we find almost all our students have some ideas about what they’re looking for.”
Anne Pabst, co-director of college counseling, Convent of the Visitation School

High school is a time for you to discover your strengths and interests and learn to adhere to deadlines and make decisions. Not everything you do in your free time should be for the sake of a college résumé. The most interesting college applicants have taken time to enjoy high school, explore their passions, and get to know themselves.

0912-Jane_200-(1).jpg“Take time with your application and, above all, be yourself. We know you’ve done good things in high school, and we want to hear about them in your own voice. The more we feel we know you, the easier it will be to determine if you are a good fit with St. Kate’s. Include a résumé or activity sheet detailing your extracurricular accomplishments, so we can see how you’ve been able to balance life with academics.”
Jane Nordhorn, director of recruitment, St. Catherine University

“We encourage students to own their college process, embrace it and take control.”
Anne Pabst, convent of the Visitation school