College Preparation Checklist
The following is a list of things you can do throughout high school to prepare for college:
- Begin thinking about career possibilities. Discuss ideas with your family and friends and use the Internet to investigate your interests to determine if they could turn into a career.
- Keep your grades up. This is the first thing that colleges will be looking at to evaluate academic performance.
- Volunteer in the community. A great place to start may be your family church, school clubs and other civic organizations. Leadership is a defining quality that will be important throughout your entire life.
- Start saving for college. Speak with your parents about setting up a savings plan designated for your college expenses.
- Continue thinking about career and college possibilities. Think about the type of school you might want to attend. Could it be a Two-Year college? A Four-Year college? A Technical School?
- Again, keep those grades up. They are the greatest link to your college admission.
- Prepare for the SAT by taking the PSAT in the early fall. This test serves as a great practice run before taking the real thing.
- Ask your school counselor if your school offers advance placement courses designed to award college credit. This is a great way to begin fulfilling some of your college academic obligations.
- Meet with your guidance counselor. Review your course plan for the school year and plan your senior class schedule.
- Begin researching financial aid options, focusing your energy on scholarships and grants. These are types of financial assistance that never have to be paid back.
- Make a list of entrance requirements. Look up the minimum acceptance requirements for entering freshmen at your top colleges, such as grade point average, high school subject credits, and standardized test scores.
- Register and take the PSAT/NMSQT. The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a program cosponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). It's a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT®. Take these tests as practice college admissions tests. The PSAT/NMSQT also establishes your eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program and additional scholarship programs. The PSAT/NMSQT measures: critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills, and writing skills.
- After your PSAT /NMSQT or PLAN scores come in, schedule a meeting with your school counselor and bring your list of entrance requirements. With your counselor, determine if your list of colleges is reasonable or needs to be adjusted, and if your current and future high school classes are appropriate
- Assemble all of your accomplishments and achievements into one folder so that they are easily accessible when applying for scholarships.
- Begin drafting college and scholarship essays. This way you can get a jumpstart on the admissions/scholarship process.
- Take the SAT or the ACT in the spring. Prepare as much as you can. Check out these websites for a great place to start getting familiar with the test questions: ACT or the SAT.
- Visit as many colleges as possible. Many institutions have programs designed to allow you to see what day-to-day college life is all about. If you cannot visit, check to see if the college you are considering offers a virtual tour via the Internet.
- Narrow down your list of schools and begin inquiring about the application process for each school you are seriously considering.
- If you were not satisfied with your scores, retake the SAT and the ACT.
- Have the required forms for financial aid and admission, and make a list of deadlines.
- Keep photocopies of all application materials you submit to include in scholarship applications.
- File early decision applications. Now is the time to file if you have made a decision.
- Beginning on January 1, you can begin to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It is best to do so as soon as possible after January 1. Some types of financial aid are awarded on a first come, first serve basis. You will need your family’s financial records such as tax information, Social Security, veteran payments, current bank statements, investment information and business or farm records. The FAFSA is located at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
- Be on the lookout for your Student Aid Report (SAR). After completing the FAFSA, you will be receiving the SAR. Now’s your chance to make any corrections, if needed.
- Register for Advanced Placement tests, if necessary.
- Confirm that all application materials (transcripts, recommendations, and financial aid forms) have been received by your chosen colleges.
- Now is the time to complete any outstanding scholarship applications.
- Make sure the testing agency sends your official test scores to the colleges on your list. Complete and submit your college applications.
- Review all acceptances and compare financial aid packages.
- By May 1, you should decide on a college. Notify other prospective colleges that you have selected another school.
- Talk to admissions staff. If your first-choice college placed you on a waiting list, you should let the admissions staff know that you are still interested in attending.
- Begin arranging for housing by sending in the housing forms to the school you have chosen.
- Contact the college and determine when fees are due for tuition and room and board.
- In April, May or June of your senior year, have your final grade transcripts sent to your college.