Preparing for College in High School

From taking the right classes to enrolling in rewarding extracurricular activities, there are plenty of steps you can take to help plan for college while you’re in high school. However, your high school years are also a busy time. To help you stay on track, use the following checklist to make sure you’re on course for preparing for college in high school.

Freshman Year Tasks

Once you enter 9th grade, you need to start focusing on the courses you’re going to take in high school. Although colleges can have varying course requirements for admission, most call for the same general classes. As you start planning your high school courses, keep in mind that you’ll need:

  • Four years of English
  • Three years of mathematics
  • Three years of lab science
  • Three years of social studies
  • Two years of a foreign language

Put together a four-year plan to make sure you graduate high school with the courses you’ll need for college admission without trying to cram everything into the last few years of school.

Sophomore Year Tasks

  • PSAT test
  • Attend college fairs
  • Explore career options

When you start 10th grade, you become eligible to take the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) in mid-October. This official precursor to the SAT won’t impact your chances of college admission. However, it will give you an idea of how the SAT exam works. Your sophomore year is also a good time for you to start attending college fairs and career information events. The information you learn here can help you start thinking about which school you would like to attend and what you would like to study while you’re in school.

Junior Year Tasks

  • SAT or ACT tests
  • AP courses

As you enter the 11th grade, college preparation tasks become intense. At the beginning of 11th grade, you can take either the SAT or ACT exam. Some schools prefer one exam to the other, while others will take a score from either exam. If you’ve already narrowed down your choices, see which exam your college prefers for admission.

Your junior year is also when you can start taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses. These courses use college-level curriculum, and at the end of the semester, you take an exam to test your knowledge. If you score a three or higher on the exam, you can earn college credits to help satisfy some of your undergraduate course requirements.

Senior Year Tasks

  • Visit potential colleges
  • Apply to potential colleges
  • Complete FAFSA® application
  • Accept a college offer

Your senior year is the most important time for getting ready for college, and it’s also the busiest. During the fall semester, continue to visit as many college campuses as you can. Once you’ve finalized your options, apply to all the colleges or universities on your list. When registration opens for FAFSA®, make sure you fill out your form and file it as soon as possible. As you start hearing back from the schools you applied to, check their acceptance deadlines and make sure you issue your final declaration before the deadline passes.

Although preparing for college in high school is a busy time, this checklist will help you make sure you complete all the important tasks on time.