Preparing for College takes effort

Preparation for college is a long journey that does not just begin once a student enters high school.  Developing a mindset where a student has aspirations of attending college is influenced by a number of factors, including home life, one’s educational success at an early age, exposure to advanced educational pursuits, personal career goals, etc.

This general checklist is offered to assist parents and students in the preparation process.  It is definitely not all-inclusive; however, it is comprehensive enough to get you moving in the right direction.  Some information was retrieved from a similar brochure published by the University of South Carolina Aiken and other sources, to include guidance counselors and personal experience.


8th grade:

  • Meet with the middle school counselor to determine courses that can be taken in 8th grade to earn high school credit that will position the student for college.

9th grade (Freshman Year):

  • Establish very strong study habits.  Middle school is very different from high school.  Some students make good grades in middle school without having to study consistently.  Start the habit of studying a minimum of two hours nightly whether or not homework has been assigned.  Review class notes, read ahead, etc.
  • Start getting involved in extracurricular activities at school, at church, and in the community, including volunteer activities.  However, do not overload yourself.  Keep a log of your involvements so you can recount them later on your resume or when completing college and scholarship applications.
  • Attend Individual Graduation Plan (IGP) meetings with the high school guidance counselor.
  • Start to think about what your future career or job.  Research the requirements for attaining this job (i.e. college requirements, experience, etc.).  Collect information in a journal and keep it updated over the years.

10th grade (Sophomore Year):

  •  Attend college fairs at your school and in the area.  Collect information on colleges who offer degrees of interest to you.  Include information in your journal.
  • Discuss registration for the PSAT or PLAN (pre-ACT).  These tests will help identify areas for improvement and give you a chance to strengthen future courses.  Ask your counselor which test might be right for you and discuss the right time to take these tests.
  • Discuss with your guidance counselor the necessity for taking Advanced Placement or dual credit college courses that will be offered at your school during your junior and senior years.
  • Strengthen your writing skills.  Consider taking a summer writing course.  Most colleges and scholarship applications require essays.  Furthermore, standardized exams such as the SAT and the ACT contain an essay portion.
  11th grade (Junior Year):



  • Official transcripts that will be sent to colleges by the high school counselor will go through the junior year.  Therefore, early admission into colleges will be based on high school grades through the junior year.  In other words, the GPA and class rank earned through junior year are extremely important.
  • Register for the PSAT, SAT and/or ACT exams.  Counselors can enlighten students and parents on the process and fees.
  • Continue meetings with the guidance counselor to ensure coursework is aligned with college admittance criteria.  For example, most four year colleges require four years of English and math, along with additional courses in history, lab science, and foreign language.
  • Begin requesting college admissions materials from schools of interest and at college fairs.
  • If you plan to play sports at the collegiate level, you must register with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) if attending an NCAA college.  There is a cost for registration.  You must also apply to the NCAA Amateurism Certification Clearinghouse.  Visit for more information.
  • Consider making college campus visits during the summer.  Many colleges offer campus tours.  Contact colleges of interest for tour availability.
  • Talk with guidance counselors about job shadowing and internship opportunities.  Many schools have organized initiatives with area businesses to make these opportunities available for students.
  • At the end of your junior year or early senior year, apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Discuss this process with your counselor or go to for additional information. 

12th grade (Senior Year):

  • Develop a master senior year calendar and review daily or at the least weekly:

            -Test dates, fees, and deadlines

            -College application due dates

            -Required financial aid applications and their deadlines

            -Recommendations, transcripts, and other necessary materials

            -High school’s deadlines for college applications, transcripts, etc.

  • Take the SAT and/or ACT if higher scores are desired.
  • Submit college applications (many colleges offer online applications).  Make sure to proofread the application before submitting.  Keep copies of final applications submitted.
  •  Research and apply for scholarships.  Every year, there is countless dollars of unclaimed scholarship money.  Use the internet for national scholarships.  Oftentimes, community businesses, organizations, fraternities and sororities, will offer scholarships.  Abide by those deadlines, which often require transcripts, recommendations, and essays.
  • Follow up on all admissions and financial aid applications.  Parents should strive to file federal income taxes as early as possible.  This will greatly assist in the financial aid process.
  • If you have applied to more than one college (strongly suggest you do), make a final decision about your school around April and send in your admission/enrollment deposit (if required) to reserve your space.  Typically, May 1 is notification day.  Your admission/enrollment deposit should be in by now to the college you have chosen.  You must inform every college whether you are accepting or rejecting their offer of admission or financial aid.
  • You will have other deadlines, such as application for housing, submitting a final high school transcript to the NCAA (if applicable), etc. 

Again, this checklist is just a start.  The best advice is to ask lots of questions, do your own research, don’t be afraid to call and/or meet with high school guidance counselors and college admissions counselors.  You have made the decision to go to college, so this is all about your life.  Don’t be afraid to reach for your goals and make the worthwhile sacrifices to see those goals come to fruition.  Congratulations!

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