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Preparation key in getting into college

LAWRENCEVILLE -- For students currently in high school who plan to attend college, Georgia Gwinnett College's Admissions director has a mantra.

It's one word. It's simple, and it can mean all the difference in the world.

"Preparation."

"We see it every year," Tee Mitchell said. "Kids wait until the last minute to pull the trigger on applying for college."

The Georgia Gwinnett College official offered advice on admissions, financial aid and the overall process of getting ready for the big transition from high school to the very different realm of post-secondary education.

"What a lot of students don't realize is that their senior year is an important time to both apply early for admission to college and to complete their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)," Mitchell said, adding that the free application can be completed as early as Jan. 1 of each year.

Mitchell said that financial aid "can't be awarded until you've applied and been admitted to a college ... you've got to get on it early."

Prior to the application process, Mitchell recommended that students take time in their junior or senior year of high school to visit several different campuses.

"The number one yield rate for applicants is a campus visit," he said. "It's great to visit their websites, but it's another thing to visit the campus and see it with your own eyes. When you visit, you will know almost immediately after that whether it's the place for you."

He recommended students select four or five different prospective colleges to visit.

The bottom line, he said: "Find out what you need to do, and do it in advance. Preparation is important. Don't wait until the last minute. There's no reason to wait."

For more information about preparing for college visit www.mappingyourfuture.org or www.collegeboard.org.