A Checklist for Success

Every journey begins with just one step, and it’s never too early to get started planning for your future. There are many steps on the way to college and a career, but it’s easier to accomplish if you break it down – year by year.

9th Grade

  • If you haven’t already got an idea where your career interests lie, start to think about it. Begin the research! There are tons of sites on line that can guide you in your decision process.
  • Find out what the graduation requirements are in your state. These vary from state to state, and now’s the time to check yours.
  • Verify that your coursework for this year fits into the recommended schedule for graduation.
  • Meet with your guidance counselor and start talking about what you are going to need to do NOW to go to college. Include advanced placement courses in your discussions.
  • TAKE SCHOOL SERIOUSLY! This is your future we’re talking about, and every grade you earn – from now on – counts!
  • Sign up to volunteer for community service

10th Grade

  • Visit with your guidance counselor. Is it too early to enroll in advanced placement classes?
  • Check out your progress on your graduation plan. Are you on track?
  • Register to take the PSAT test in the fall. This is the practice test for the SAT, and the test to see if you can qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.
  • In some states the alternative to the SAT is the ACT exam. If yours in one of those, plan to take the PLAN test in the fall (the ACT practice test).
  • Participate in school activities. Join clubs and get active. Colleges, universities, and scholarship committees are looking for well rounded, active students.
  • Continue to volunteer. It’s amazing how many colleges and scholarships now include community service activity as one of their application eligibility requirements.

11th Grade

  • Meet with your guidance counselor check progress.
  • Enroll in advanced placement courses. In the end it will save $$$, and colleges like to see these on applications.
  • Register for the SAT or ACT. Both may be re-taken to attain the best scores.
  • Attend the college fair at your school.
  • Have a serious talk with your parents about your education and career goals. College is expensive, and frank discussions now will avoid disappointment later.
  • Look into scholarships. Thousands of dollars go unclaimed every year because no one applied for them.
  • Be aware of deadlines for both college and scholarship applications.
  • Contact those schools on your final list; request student information packets.
  • If an athletic scholarship is a possibility, talk to your coach.
  • Plan to visit colleges on your list over the summer.
  • Keep up with your community service activities.

12th Grade

  • Check your progress and make sure you are on track for graduation.
  • Know what scores are needed on your AP exams to get college credit for the course.
  • Meet with your guidance counselor.
  • Apply to the schools on your list in the early fall.
  • Apply for scholarships by the due dates specified.
  • Go on line to FAFSA as soon as possible and complete the free application for Federal Student Aid. This will determine how much aid you may be qualified for, and is required for many scholarship applications.
  • Acceptance letters from schools usually arrive in early May. Scholarship award letters also arrive then.
  • Make your final selection; inform any other colleges you applied to know.
  • Don’t relax yet! Senior grades count, and admission acceptance may be rescinded if you don’t do well.
  • Request final transcripts be sent to your college.
  • Fill out housing applications, and make sure your immunizations are current.


Requirements for Graduation

These requirements are specific to each state, and there is no national standard. However, the list is generally quite similar in each state. If you’d like to find out what yours are, Google graduation requirements in your state for the complete list. The list can also be obtained from your high school guidance counselor. State university and college eligibility for admission based on high school credits generally coincide with the state’s requirements for graduation.

Career Selection

See our article, “Discovering the Career That’s Right for You,” and check out the attached links.

SAT and/or ACT Testing

For complete details about both of these college entrance exams, do your research on line. You will find registration information, practice questions, tips on studying for the tests, and schedules of when they will be given. Go to www.collegeboard.com and search “SAT” or “ACT.”

Advanced Placement Coursework & Testing

Advanced coursework on your transcript is an indication of a serious student – just the type that colleges and scholarship selection committees love. Information about these courses, including descriptions of curriculum, and requirements, as well as minimum testing scores for college credit can be found by going to www.collegeboard.com and searching “advanced placement.”

College & University Admission Requirements

Simply go to the school website and check it out. They will provide complete information about admission requirements, eligibility for in-state or out-of-state attendance, and housing. You can request student information packets from most college websites.

Search for Scholarship Opportunities

There are thousands of dollars in scholarships that are never awarded each year simply because no one applied for them. Opportunities range from general (designed for anyone) to those designated by ethnicity, gender, military service, community service, and many, many others. Check out our scholarship information, but don’t forget to see what’s available at the college or university you have chosen to attend.

Apply for Federal Student Aid

If you intend to apply for any type of financial assistance, you will most likely be required to go to www.FAFSA.ed.gov website and complete the free application on line to determine your degree of eligibility. You will need to supply the outcome of this process with many of your scholarship applications. Applications must be resubmitted for each additional year of aid.

Other Related Links and Resources

Recommended Books