This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.
High School Checklists to Stay on Track
Believe it or not, you’re probably doing something to prepare yourself for college each and every day you attend high school! From finding a support network, to taking challenging classes, to attending sports practices, you’re well on your way to becoming a successful college applicant.
And we’ve got a checklist for each year of high school to help you keep track of all the important steps you’re taking toward getting into college and preparing for your future. Click on the high school year you’re in or entering to download or print the checklist.
Required Courses for High School Graduation
To get your high school diploma, you must take a certain combination of classes across different subject areas. Usually, this includes one course per year in each of the four “core disciplines” (math, science, social studies and English), and a mix of other courses that include languages, art or music electives, gym, and computers.
Find out what these requirements are and plan your class schedule to make sure you meet them. Go to your school’s guidance department or the website for your city’s Department of Education—you can usually find a list of graduation requirements under the “Students” tab.
Courses for College Entry
When planning for college, it’s important to make careful choices in the courses you take throughout your four years in high school. Admissions officers want to see a broad foundation of knowledge across the disciplines—knowledge that will support the studies you’ll pursue in college. An ideal college prep program should include one course each year in the four core disciplines (math, social studies, science and English), as well as courses in electives like arts and languages.
Click here to get more details about courses to take for college entry.
Make Yourself College Material
The most successful college applicants have all figured out one thing: they’ve learned to “package” themselves the right way for admissions officers. They do this through a combination of challenging classes, compelling extracurricular activities, volunteer work, excellent grades and a demonstrated ability to use free time effectively to advance goals. Here we’ll tell you what makes an outstanding transcript different from a good one, and how you can package yourself for a shot at the college of your choice.
Use Your Summers Wisely
Summer school isn’t just a chance to make up failed classes. It’s also a chance to get ahead by taking a class in a subject that interests you—either at your high school or at a local community college. Signing up for an introductory course at a local college can benefit you not only by providing an interesting learning opportunity, but also by enabling you to acquire college credits early. It’s a great way to stave off summer boredom while simultaneously getting ahead on your future college requirements.
Manage Your Time Like a Pro
Extracurricular activities, honors classes, family responsibilities, jobs—sometimes it can seem overwhelming trying to juggle so many tasks at once! But you can do all these things—and do them well—if you learn to be both creative and effective in your time management.
We’ve come up with ways you can avoid wasting time and maximize minutes you might not realize can be used productively, so you can take control over your busy schedule.
How to Choose Between and Prepare for the SAT and ACT
If you’re going to college, you’ll need to take certain standardized tests—the PSAT, SAT, SAT II or ACT—to gain college admission. You’ll most likely take the PSAT with your classmates on a designated school day in your sophomore or junior year.
Many students take the SAT or ACT twice (in the spring of their junior year and again in the early fall of their senior year) in an effort to get a higher score the second time around. To sign up for the SAT and SAT II tests, go to http://www.collegeboard.org; for the ACTs, a popular alternative, go to http://www.actstudent.org.
If you cannot pay the fee for the tests, ask for a fee waiver—basically, a coupon for a free test—in your school’s guidance office. To learn more about the SAT fee waiver qualifications go to http://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-fee-waivers; for more information on ACT fee waivers go to http://www.actstudent.org/faq/feewaiver.html
Read on for more information on how you should go about choosing and preparing for these tests.
Get the Support You Need
Applying to college is exciting—but it’s also a tough road, and you don’t have to go it alone! Throughout high school and especially during the application period, even the most diligent and motivated students need support. It’s important to find a network of individuals to help you in different ways: to motivate you to work hard in your classes, to aid you in filling out your applications, to answer your questions about the process, and to encourage you when you feel like giving up.
Check out our page on how to find the support you need to sail through the college admissions process like a pro.