If you have taken the SAT (or ACT), congratulations! Do you know what to do now?

The best advice is to speak with someone who can evaluate the rest of your application and provide you with a non-biased opinion as to your competitiveness. I know sitting for the SAT (or ACT) is not a joy (we have done it), so please be assured that we only recommend taking the test again if we think it is truly beneficial or necessary.

Now that you have your scores, you can take that deep, holistic view of your candidacy. One thing to keep in mind is that most applicants to selective colleges clear the same academic hurdles you’re facing.

So you need to make especially sure your intangibles section – the “wow” factors, your college admission essays, letters of recommendation, activity statement and possibly even optional essays – all reflect who you are and where you want to go.

The college admission process is more than just a “who has the best numbers” system; it’s a chance for you to stand out in the crowd and show the admissions committee you have something long-lasting to offer the school.

Another step in the application process to consider is the ever-present question of money – and if you should apply for financial aid. But is it too early to start thinking about it? Typically, most applicants begin the financial aid application process in January or February. It’s difficult to begin earlier than that because you will want your tax information to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and the FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for federal loans.

So is there any need to think about it at this point? Not necessarily. If you anticipate securing private loans (in addition to federal loans) to fund your education, I highly recommend obtaining a copy of the credit reports now. The sooner you receive those reports, the sooner any credit problems can be cleaned up.

Oftentimes, these reports contain inaccurate information, so getting one now will allow plenty of time to correct any mistakes. Be sure you have good credit prior to applying for a private loan.

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