It’s NEVER too early to begin preparing for college. While starting and maintaining a college readiness notebook should take place the summer between 8th and 9th grade, college planning can start as early as the preschool years. HOWEVER, if you are starting late, remember it is better to begin late than never at all!

Quick Tips for Parents:

  • Open the communication doors about college readiness.
  • Stay involved in your student’s academics and activities.
  • Help your child set goals for the school year and keep track with an organizational system.

Quick Tips for Students:

  • College is for everyone; you just have to choose the best path for you!
  • Challenge yourself and maintain a good GPA.
  • Stay organized and keep track of your grades, accomplishments, activities and leadership roles.

College readiness before high school? Absolutely!

  • In elementary school, begin learning and improving study skills and time management. This will take parent support.
  • As an 8th grader, sign up for high school courses such as Algebra I, Spanish I, and Art I if offered at your school.
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities like band, art, theater, choir, sports, student council, and National Junior Honor Society.
  • Volunteer. Align your community involvement with your interests to make it a positive experience.
  • Sign up for Pre-Ap and AP courses for high school.
  • Don’t take slack off classes because your friends are. Take courses that spark your interest for your future or potential future.
  • Utilize a career search tool to find possible future career paths.
  • Learn what different colleges offer. Look at community colleges, universities, technical and/or trade schools.

Bonus Tip: Start a college readiness notebook or purchase one here to stay organized and prepared for all your college readiness needs. This will lead to less stress and more confidence in future decisions.

9th Grade

Focus: Explore & discover interests.

  • Grades matter for college entry and scholarships; there are no redos starting in 9th grade.
  • Get involved.
  • Volunteer during the school year and over the summer.
  • Research careers.
  • Go on college visitation trips.
  • Sign up for Pre-AP and AP classes and take electives that will help guide your future.
  • Update college readiness notebook.
  • Time management-balance.

Bonus Tip: Take this FREE career quiz to learn about career opportunities based on your interests.

10th Grade

Focus: Get connected through activities after determining your interests.

  • Maintain a good GPA.
  • Stay or get involved in extracurricular activities.
  • Take the PSAT.
  • Gain experience through volunteering or getting a job.
  • Continue researching career choices.
  • Find out if college or financial awareness nights are held at the school and attend.
  • Update college readiness notebook.
  • Visit more colleges.

Bonus Tip: Make a list of questions you want to ask on your college tour. Factors to consider include school size, location, academic programs, activities available to students, cost, campus culture and atmosphere, amenities, etc…

11th Grade

Focus: Deepen involvement in school, activities, volunteer work, and find leadership opportunities.

  • Take the ACT and/or SAT.
  • Conduct a scholarship search.
  • Create an FSA account
  • Narrow down potential colleges.
  • Take the PSAT to see if you qualify for National Merit Scholarships.
  • Attend college fairs and college prep presentations.
  • Continue college visitation tours.
  • Update college readiness notebook.

Bonus Tip: Sign up for an e-mail address that is professional. Use this email for college and scholarship applications. For instance:

12th Grade

Focus: Applying for college and scholarships will take time. Your planning should help since it’s all written down in an organized manner. Have fun your last year in high school with your family and friends!

  • Update and maintain college readiness notebook
  • Maintain GPA–scholarship offers can be affected even though you are already admitted to college.
  • Complete & submit FAFSA, which becomes available on October 1.
  • Retake ACT and/or SAT if necessary
  • Apply to colleges and scholarships.
  • Request transcript copies from counseling office.
  • Request recommendation letters from adults who know you well and worked with you closely.
  • Take final college visits
  • Commit to the college of your choice.

Bonus Tip: College essays take time; get started early. Request assistance from educators and parents.

It’s always best to start planning early, but planning for college readiness at any level is better than never! Discover what you want, get engaged, deepen your involvement each year and apply to the colleges you desire to attend.

Want a printable checklist of these tasks for each year of high school?

Tell us – what are you doing this year to plan for college? How did you stay organized? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

What grade in high school to start planning for college