Outsourcing, a poor economy, and more sophisticated technology mean that college is more important than ever. But getting there is about more than getting good grades. Here is a primer on going to college.

It used to be that not going to college was a viable option for people thinking about entering the workforce. That is not really the case any longer. Nevertheless, the first move when thinking about college is to actually ponder whether one wants to go. Here are the reasons you should.

In a nutshell, you’ll earn more money, get better jobs and just be better prepared for life in general if you go to a two- or four-year college. Statistically, the facts are in. Graph the unemployment rate of people with varying degrees of education and you’ll see that college grads will always have a better position on the chart than people with less education. No high school diploma puts you at the highest risk for unemployment. People with only high school diplomas come next. That is followed by people with some college. And then people with college degrees bring up the rear. They are the least likely to be unemployed.

It’s never too early to be thinking about college, and certain courses in middle and high school can get you ready for the journey. Students who want to take advanced courses like calculus in high school need to begin Algebra I by eighth grade. Taking a challenging math curriculum can also help you do well on things like the SAT or in college math classes. Also, you need to take English every year from the start of middle school to the end of high school. In addition, take science and history classes as much as possible. In short, take as challenging of a courseload as you can manage.  Colleges do look at the rigor of your curriculum.

Those are the main necessities, but there are other subjects to consider. Most colleges require foreign language classes, so get started on developing those skills early. Also, with computers so much a part of our lives, computer science classes are a must, as is exposure to classes in the arts. Combine these with the previously mentioned core requirements and you should have a good foundation for college.

Higher education is expensive. If you’re a parent, start saving. If you’re a student, start thinking about what kinds of grades you’ll need for a scholarship. Also, consider to which colleges you want to apply. Private and out-of-state colleges will be the most expensive, while local public colleges may be more affordable. Also, you may want to think about taking your basic college classes at a community college and then transferring to a four-year college. That’s a good way to save money.

Finally, when you get to college, you want to start looking at ways to cut the cost of tuition. Applying for financial aid or Pell Grants is one way. You can also look into work-study programs and federal loans. Be careful, however. You will have to pay those loans back. That will leave you saddled with debt as soon as you get out into the workforce; and, in this economy, there is no guarantee that employment will follow immediately after your education is complete.

These are just some preliminary tips, but they should give you a head start. For more help getting ready for college, go here.