From middle school onward, there are plenty of things you can do to build a foundation for a smoother shift into college. Taking a series of baby steps throughout your middle and high school years will help make you college-ready.
The following is a detailed resource guide filled with useful articles to take you through a year by year timeline of college planning.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Reasons to Attend College
Chapter 2: Preparing Yourself for College
Chapter 3: Middle School Years
Chapter 4: Ninth Grade
Chapter 5: Tenth Grade
Chapter 6: Eleventh Grade
Chapter 7: Twelfth Grade
Chapter 8: College Application Process
Chapter 9: Paying for College
Chapter 10: Starting Your Freshman Year
Chapter 11: Finding Success in College
Advancing your education beyond a high school diploma will open doors of opportunity that would otherwise remain locked. Having a college degree makes you eligible for a greater variety of jobs with higher salary potential. In fact, individuals with a bachelor's degree earn around $1 million more in their lifetime in comparison to high school graduates. Attending college allows you to become more independent, meet new people, discover passions, build life experience, and learn about yourself before entering the workforce. Whatever your vocational aspiration may be, college can help forge the way. In this first chapter, we'll take a closer look at the ways college can positively shape your life into success.
- 5 Reasons Why College Is Still Worth It
- Hidden Benefits of a College Education
- 10 Jobs in High Demand That Require a College Degree
- Six Advantages of an Online Degree
- 10 Reasons Why You Should Go to College
It's now clear that attending college is smart, but you'll first have to find your right college fit and make your way onto campus. College is a major life change that you need to become socially, academically, and mentally prepared for. It's best to come up with an action plan for turning yourself into a college student before stepping into the classroom. Being well-prepared will hopefully make the college admissions process and transition run smoothly with less stress. In the following resources, you'll stumble across several leading articles filled with tips for preparing for life's next chapter.
- 10 Ways to Jumpstart College Planning
- Preparing for Your Freshman Year of College
- Mapping Your Future: Preparing for College
- 8 Tips for Preparing for College (and Life) in High School
Middle school or junior high might seem too early to begin worrying about college. While it's true that aggressively molding yourself or your child into Harvard material at 12 isn't wise, middle school can be the perfect time to start thinking about college. In a Forbes article, UC San Diego Director of Admissions stated that students should begin college prep at sixth grade. Middle school lays the foundation for high school subjects, so taking academics seriously is essential. Young adolescents can also begin forming useful academic and life skills that will be important later. The following are some steps that middle schoolers can take towards college.
- Building Good Study Habits
- Choosing a Foreign Language
- Starting a College Savings Plan
- Exploring Extra-Curricular Activities for College Preparation
- Setting Future College Goals
Transitioning into high school is a big step because it may determine how the rest of your secondary education plays out. That's why ninth grade is a critical year in every student's college preparation timeline. At this stage of the game, you should be focused on establishing your academic and extra-curricular credentials to eventually form an impressive college application. Although admissions committees won't likely look at your ninth grade transcript, getting your grades up will be handy for taking advanced courses later. Round out your course schedule with challenge core subjects and exploratory electives. Below are some useful steps you can take for making the most of ninth grade.
- Develop a Relationship with Your High School Counselor
- Taking the EXPLORE Test
- Getting Involved in Community Service
- Learning the Recommended College Prep Courses
- Attending a Pre-College Summer Camp
Tenth grade is about more than getting behind the wheel with a learner's permit. Sophomores are no longer the little fish of high school anymore, so teachers will start expecting more responsibility. Not only are classes getting harder, but electives are beginning to matter more for shaping your college application. Most students start giving college a real thought in tenth grade. It's not productive to stress over college at this early stage, but taking it too easy can be costly in your senior year. Make certain you're challenging yourself with a rigorous curriculum and involvement in resume-building extra-curricular activities. In this chapter, we'll focus on the college preparation steps best suited for tenth graders.
- Taking the PLAN Test
- Researching Possible Majors and Career Paths
- Becoming Familiar with Filling Out College Applications
- Comparing Different Colleges
- Getting Sumer Job Experience
In the eleventh grade, the college preparation process hits the accelerator. Many call the junior year of high school the most difficult. While keeping your grades up, you'll need to stay paying closer attention to mapping our your college career goals. You're still one year away from filling out your applications, but you should be narrowing down your college choices. Staying organized to balance all of this year's standardized tests is also important. Eleventh grade is all about shaping your academic portfolio into a package that will impress college admissions committees at your top pick schools. Get ready for college by completing the following crucial steps before your final year of high school begins.
- Testing Your College Readiness with the PSAT
- Drafting a List of Potential Colleges
- Scheduling Campus Visits
- Attending a College Fair
- Registering for the SAT
- Securing Your College Recommendation Letters
The time has finally come and you're starting twelfth grade. Senior year should be an exciting point in every high schooler's life, yet it's also filled with the stress of college applications. At this stage, you should already have selected a handful of schools. You'll need to stay active in your extra-curricular activities, maintain high grades, and ward off senioritis. It's also the last chance you have to score well on the SAT or ACT. To keep your eyes on the college education prize, balance between hard work and fun is key. Juggling everything from prom to college essays and AP tests isn't easy, but it's a great time to build multi-tasking skills. Finish out your high school career strong by following these key steps for senior year.
- Considering A.P. Coursework
- Interviewing with College Representatives
- Filing the FAFSA Form for Financial Aid
- Taking CLEP Tests to Earn Credit
- Avoiding a Senior Slump
- Making Your Final College Choice
Applying to college is a daunting task, so let's use this chapter to break down this process into a more manageable series of smaller steps. The college application is designed to give you a one-time opportunity to impress admissions committees by presenting yourself in the best light, but it can be easy to become overwhelmed and lost in the shuffle of endless paperwork. Whether you're confident in your college choice for early decision or applying to multiple schools, you'll need to stay organized. It's often best to create a resume of your compelling accomplishments to know exactly which messages you're looking to convey on your application. The following are some great resources for making college applications less stressful.
- Learn About The Common Application
- Important Application Dos and Don'ts
- How to Apply to College for Free
- College Application Checklist
Applying to college and getting into your first-choice school is only half the battle. You'll also have to find a way to finance your post-secondary schooling. After all, the NCES reports that average tuition prices are now $15,022 at public colleges, $39,173 at private non-profit universities, and $23,158 at private for-profit schools every year! Many students automatically borrow money from the federal government and private loans, but these funds must be repaid with interest later on. That's why it's best to exhaust every other financial aid resource, such as scholarships, grants, fellowships, and savings plans, to limit your loan debt later. Review the following resources to minimize the financial burden of spending two or more years in higher learning.
- 7 Smart Ways to Pay for College
- Top 5 Money Mistakes You Should Avoid in College
- Finding and Applying for Scholarships
- All About Federal Work-Study Jobs
- What to Know About Employer Tuition Benefits for College
- Paying for College: Today's Military
No matter how prepared you are, transitioning from living at home and attending high school to the freedom of college living is a challenge. You'll be thrown into a totally foreign environment from the lecture halls to the cafeteria and dorms. There are bound to be some bumps along the way as you discover who you are, gain independence, forge friends, and explore career options. However, you don't want to become part of the 25 percent of freshmen who leave before sophomore year. Starting your freshman year off on the right foot increases your chance of thriving in college. In this chapter, we've combined several resources jam-packed with helpful tips for overcoming the stress and homesickness of your freshman year.
- What to Bring to College: Checklist
- 10 Tips College Freshmen Should Know
- Making the Most of Your Freshman Year
- 8 Ways to Beat the Freshman 15
- How to Manage Your Money Freshman Year
- The College Freshman Bucket List
Unlike high school, there won't be anyone watching over you and telling you what to do in college. From freshman year and beyond, you'll need to step up to bat and take control of creating your own college success. Since college is a major investment, it's essential that you get the best return on your investment by maximizing your time there. Take advantage of college to explore new subjects, build long-lasting connections, and become the best possible version of yourself. Below we've collected several helpful resources to show the best techniques for making the grade in college.
- Top 10 Secrets of College Success
- A Professor's Pointers for Success in College
- 7 Tips to Help Land That Internship
- The Best Advice College Students Never Hear
- 9 Things You Must Know to Survive Dorm Life
Overall, college-bound youth should begin preparing for their post-secondary schooling starting as early as middle school. In addition to selecting appropriately challenging courses and earning good grades, teens should begin using the Internet to research every step of the college admissions process. Letting your skills and interests shine through on a solid range of extra-curricular activities will also transform you into a successful college applicant. Always remember that you don't have to go through the hefty task of choosing and getting into college alone. Rely on advice from teachers, counselors, mentors, and family members to guide your way. Also, check out the resources in our year by year guide to make sure you don't miss a step in achieving your college goals.